Threatening Communications In Schools – What Is A Student Threat?


Bullying students

Last Updated on May 19, 2021 by Michelle Ball

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

As students can be suspended or expelled for making threats to cause physical injury in schools, it is useful for parents (and students) to have an understanding of what may be alleged to be a threat.

threatening student
Students must be careful not to make threats in school or they could be up for discipline

Education Code Regarding Student Threats

Student threats which are punishable are mentioned in several sections of the California Education Code relevant to suspension and expulsion as follows:

California Education Code section 48900 (a)(1): Threat to physically harm someone

Caused, attempted to cause, or threatened to cause physical injury to another person…

California Education Code section 48900(o): Witness Threats

Harassed, threatened, or intimidated a pupil who is a complaining witness or a witness in a school disciplinary proceeding for purposes of either preventing that pupil from being a witness or retaliating against that pupil for being a witness, or both.

California Education Code section 48900.4: Harassment or Intimidation

pupil has intentionally engaged in harassment, threats, or intimidation, directed against school district personnel or pupils, that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to have the actual and reasonably expected effect of materially disrupting classwork, creating substantial disorder, and invading the rights of either school personnel or pupils by creating an intimidating or hostile educational environment.

Student intimidation leads to discipline in schools
Students should not try to scare or intimidate other students

California Education Code section 48900.7 : Terroristic Threats

“terroristic threat” shall include any statement, whether written or oral, by a person who willfully threatens to commit a crime which will result in death, great bodily injury to another person, or property damage in excess of one thousand dollars ($1,000), with the specific intent that the statement is to be taken as a threat, even if there is no intent of actually carrying it out, which, on its face and under the circumstances in which it is made, is so unequivocal, unconditional, immediate, and specific as to convey to the person threatened, a gravity of purpose and an immediate prospect of execution of the threat, and thereby causes that person reasonably to be in sustained fear for his or her own safety or for his or her immediate family’s safety, or for the protection of school district property, or the personal property of the person threatened or his or her immediate family.

Threats To Students

Student threats to assault another student can get kids in trouble in school. These are probably obvious to many parents, and even students, as being prohibited.

Examples of such threats, that a school could place a student up for suspension or expulsion are:

“I am going to have my cousin/father/brother beat you up.”

“We are going to jump you after school.”

Watch your back as I am coming for you.”

“I have a knife and I am going to use it.”

“If you tell them what I did, I will hurt you.”

police called in for student threat
Threats can lead to police being called in on top of school punishment

Student Threats To Harm the School

Other communications which can get an elementary, middle or high school student punished are threats of future harm to the general school. These are not small deals, as the Columbine legacy has made schools very paranoid of broad threats of any kind.

These threats can lead to alarming emails being sent out to every parent in a school, school lockdowns, and terribly harsh punishments, even for joking or non-serious statements.

Examples of these broad school threats could be:

“Everyone should stay home when I come on Tuesday if they know what’s good for them.”

“The school won’t be there next week.”

“I am going to destroy/blow up/shoot up the school.”

“I have a gun and I am going to use it at school.”

Teachers can report threats from students
Threats should not be made against school staff.

Threats By Students To Harm School Staff

Students can also, even inadvertently, make threatening statements against school staff and teachers, which can get them suspended or expelled from school.

Examples of these could be:

“Get her,” when replying to another student’s statement they were going to protest something a teacher did.

“I am going to take down my teacher.”

“My teacher won’t be alive next week.”

“Teacher X better watch out as she is on my hit list.”

“I am going to harm the principal with my knife tomorrow.”

“That secretary is dead.”

Threats To Commit Suicide with Collateral Damage

Students can become depressed, about so many things. They can express their depression and suicidal ideations on social media or to friends. These threats can not only get a student picked up for a mandatory mental health evaluation, but they can also end up in expulsion or suspension.

Examples of suicide plus one type of threats could be:

“I am going to kill myself at school so I can take out Joe.”

“I am going to be a suicide by cop at my school.”

“I will be famous, like the Columbine kids.”

“They are bullying me, so I am going to take them out at school and don’t care if I die trying.”

Pictures with guns may lead to school punishment
Students should not post images that could be perceived as threatening to schools, students or staff

Student Threats That Don’t Seem Like Threats

Sometimes, students can do something that gets them in discipline trouble, and everyone can be surprised.

Examples of threats that may not seem like threats could be:

An essay written on school shootings.

Research on the school internet on school shootings or weapons, even if it is for a school authorized project.

Making an item in shop class that someone misconstrues as a weapon or bomb.

Taking a picture with a gun and posting it.

Schools Have No Mercy

School threats are no joke and in today’s day and age, students need to be careful everywhere to ensure they don’t do something someone takes as a threat. Schools are not afraid to bring the police in or to severely punish students who make statements they perceive as threatening.