Two Warren County boys were ordered to remain in detention for at least a week in connection with separate school threat cases last week at Lebanon and Little Miami high schools, as the rest of the nation was coming to terms with the latest in a series of deadly school shootings.
“The whole world is on edge now and you just added fuel to it,” Judge Joe Kirby said during the second of two hearings Friday in Warren County Juvenile Court.
On Tuesday, Kirby flashed a newspaper headline reporting that more than 400 people had been shot in 200 school shootings before ordering a Turtlecreek Twp. boy, 17, who has already served four days in detention since he surrendered to authorities on Friday to remain in detention while undergoing an assessment.
He is charged with inducing panic by texting, “THAT’S IT IM GONNA SHOOT UP A SCHOOL I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE” to friends on Feb. 15 and is serving a 10-day school suspension, according to court officials.
An hour later, the judge again invoked the school shooting crisis and the recent tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School outside of Miami, in deciding to hold a 14-year-old Hamilton Twp. boy who admitted to inducing panic, making false alarms and intimidation of a witness after a Snapchat of him holding a realistic toy gun to a friend’s head left other students worried he would bring a gun to school at Little Miami High School.
“Don’t fall asleep around your friends,” the boy said he wrote beneath the picture. He also admitted posting another message threatening to beat up witnesses in the case after police questioned him about the Snapchats.
Kirby also ordered this boy to undergo an assessment before being released or sentenced.
Both incidents resulted in the accused boy’s arrest Friday, the day after 17 people were killed and 15 more hospitalized after the shooting at the Parkland Fla. high school.
The Lebanon case was first reported Friday night by Lebanon City Schools Superintendent Todd Yohey.
“Students need to realize that there is no such thing anymore as an empty threat; no jokes, no kidding around, no ‘I didn’t mean it,’ ” Yohey said in the statement.
“The people who view your posts or overhear you make threats are going to report you. In Warren County, that likely means felony charges. Parents need to have serious conversations with their children about the consequences of making threats in today’s society,” he said in a statement.
Both boys are to return to court on Feb. 28.
Parents in Little Miami received this message Friday from Little Miami High School Principal Cathy Trevathan.
“We were made aware of an incident where a threat of gun violence was made by a student on Snapchat. A student saw the threat, reported this to a parent and the parent contacted our tip line.
Hamilton Twp. police then went to the home of the student making the threat and interviewed the student and parents and the student will be charged. This is also a violation of the student code of conduct for which the student will be disciplined. We continue to work in conjunction with Hamilton Twp. police dept. as this is an ongoing investigation.
We wanted to write to make you aware of this incident and to praise the efforts of those who saw and reported the threat.”
Contrary to reports during Friday’s hearing, the high school was not evacuated, public information officer Melinda Briggs said in an email.
Kirby quizzed the boy after he admitted to the charges during his first court appearance, with lawyer Kim Bui.
The judge also also referred to a Butler County case at Madison Jr./Sr. High School in February 2016. Austin Hancock, a 14-year-old student at the school, about a 40-minute drive southwest in Butler County, wounded four classmates during a shooting in the cafeteria.
Hancock was sent to state detention. Lawsuits were filed.
With his mother listening in, the boy said “at first” he thought the social media posts were funny.
“I don’t even know how this is remotely funny or a good idea,” Kirby said. “everyone now at school is nervous.”
After the first hearing, the boy’s father said his son was being held because he included the statement alleged in court records in a Snapchat to friends, part of a running joke that was seen by one of their fathers, who reported it.
“It’s a joke they make at school all the time,” he said.
The school’s new resource officer talked with the boy and referred what he learned to the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, according to authorities.
His lawyer, Ed Perry, urged Kirby to release the 17-year-old to his family, noting, among other things, a wheat allergy that was restricting his diet.
About 10 people sat in the court gallery in support of him and cries followed the judge’s decision to keep him in detention.