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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: December 5, 2018 03:08 PM
From: Senator Scott Martin
To: All Senate members
Subject: Securing and Evaluating Juveniles Charged with Making Terroristic Threats
In the near future, I intend to reintroduce Senate Bill 1165, which will provide additional tools for law enforcement to better protect our communities while a mental health evaluation and risk assessment are accelerated for alleged juvenile offenders.

In early 2018, a high school student at my home school district made two separate threats to harm students and school personnel. The student was identified, arrested, admitted to making the terroristic threats and was later charged with multiple felonies and misdemeanors. Within a few hours, the student was sent home when Juvenile Probation & Parole refused to detain the alleged offender at the objection of the local police department. Students, parents, teachers and administrators were rightfully concerned and confused. The situation raised questions about how this individual could be released back into the community after committing such an act, when the student would return to school, and whether the school would be safe.

This is not unique to Lancaster County. Over 150 school threat incidents occurred in Pennsylvania in a two month period following the tragic events in Parkland, Florida and roughly 30% of the individuals believed to be responsible for those threats were detained.

This legislation will require that a juvenile charged with making terroristic threats be detained and cannot be released until a mental health evaluation and home risk assessment are completed. Second, the bill will provide clarification allowing law enforcement to charge the juvenile with a felony, even if the threat does not cause an evacuation of the school, as the current statute limits.

Currently, the juvenile justice system gives priority status to a detained juvenile over a non-detained juvenile. A detained juvenile would need to be adjudicated within 10 days and have their disposition hearing within 20 days, whereas a non-detained juvenile would be adjudicated within 90 days and have a disposition hearing within 60 days. This process would better serve the juvenile and the community at large by having an expedited mental health evaluation and home risk assessment.

While I believe in balanced and restorative justice and want our young people to be productive members of the community, I believe this legislation will provide the clarity and cooling-off period the community needs after facing a serious and potentially dangerous threat to their safety.

I hope you will consider joining me by co-sponsoring this legislation.

Introduced as SB106