Each legislative session thousands of bills and amendments are introduced in the Pennsylvania Legislature. Only a fraction become law, and an even smaller portion receive wide media coverage.
These bills impact the lives of people living in Pennsylvania every day.
Each week The Sentinel will highlight one bill that has not received widespread attention.
About the bill
Since the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, there has been a focus on students who make threats against schools and how those threats are treated.
Sen. Scott Martin, R-Lancaster County, has introduced a bill that would require students be detained after being charged with making threats against school staff or students.
Senate Bill 1165 would require any student charged with making terroristic threats be held in custody at least until a mental health evaluation is conducted. The bill would also require cases against juveniles held in custody be adjudicated with 10 days, while cases against juveniles not being held in custody could take up to 90 days, according to the bill.
Martin wrote in a co-sponsorship letter that the bill was prompted by an incident in his district where a student made threats against other students and staff and the local juvenile probation and parole department did not hold him in custody.
“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,” Martin wrote.
Martin does not provide a name of the student involved or the school district, but a student at Penn Manor High School in Millersville was charged in an incident similar to what Martin described.
The student in that case was released after juvenile probation and parole determined he had no means of carrying out the threat, and a risk assessment found him not to be a threat, according to Fox 43.
There is no indication that the student went on to commit any act of violence after being released.
Martin also said there have been 150 school threat incidents since the shooting in Florida, but does not provide context as to how many occur normally.
The Pennsylvania State Police Uniform Crime Reporting System classifies terroristic threats as a nonaggravated assault, along with simple assault, harassment and other crimes.
There are typically about 1,500 juveniles arrested under this classification statewide annually between February and April, according to State Police data.
The Educator’s School Safety Network, a national organization focused on school safety, reports that it typically tracks 10 reported threats against schools each day nationally, but has seen an uptick to roughly 70 per day since the Florida shooting.
However, that data is based on news reports of school threat incidents, which in turn are generally based on incidents that are reported to police and made public.
Increases in reporting to police, reports being made public by police or reports being published by news outlets could skew those numbers without actually reflecting a change in underlying threats against schools.