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Police: Too many kids joking about school shootings

SALT LAKE COUNTY – It’s not funny, police say.

Officers are giving more details about an alleged prank where a teen said he would open fire in a school in Kearns.  The Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office plans to start an outreach campaign to teach kids that these jokes can land them in big trouble.

Investigators say when the Jefferson Junior High School posted a picture on Snapchat, telling friends not to come to school on Monday, he was holding an air-soft rifle.  Unified Police Sergeant Melody Gray says the boy didn’t realize the panic he sparked.  “When it was brought to his attention why we were there, he literally laughed.  He started laughing and said, ‘I just thought it was funny,’” she says.

Even though it was a prank, Sheriff Rosie Rivera wants the DA to file very real charges.  She says the boy committed a third degree felony.

Rivera says there will be a large outreach effort to teach kids that these jokes can land them in hot water.  This would include instructional videos produced by the department.  She adds, “We’re saying, ‘See something?  Say something.’  Maybe some of these kids are actually starting to think, ‘So and so has been doing this.  I’m going to report it.’”

Since the Parkland shooting, over 50 tips came to the Granite School District through their Safe UT app about four different shooting threats, and District Spokesman Ben Horsley says all of them were jokes.  He says, “One of these kids at one of our high schools was a straight A student who thought he was being funny.  He was sharing it on Snapchat because he feels like just his friends are going to see that.”

Horsley believes parents not monitoring their children’s social media pages is a large part if this problem.  “In most of these cases, the parents are like, ‘You did what?’  They understand the implications,” he says.