Legislation looks to crack down on school threat hoaxes

Posted at 6:41 AM, Oct 12, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — Ahead of the legislative session, Utah politicians expressed interest in cracking down on school threats hoaxes.

The motivation comes as hoax calls have plagued many Utah schools since the spring.

"We were lucky compared to what had happened in some other states if you can call it that, to get through the end of the school year the way we did," said Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-North Ogden. "Because this has been ramping up everywhere."

A drafted version of a bill would make a false emergency report that leads to a mass response a felony crime punishable by prison time.

If the bill is passed, children or teens who make such a threat could be suspended or expelled.

"These are our families, this is not a casual thing," Wilcox said in part. "We've fielded a lot of phone calls and emails from parents who are similarly concerned and we understand that this will not fix everything."

Utah lawmakers said they recognize this is just a starting point that won't completely stop all hoax calls.

"The larger issue as to why this is happening to begin with and why our society seems to think that it's okay to target the most vulnerable population in our society," said Wilcox. "That's a different issue...We're going to do everything we can to protect our kids to protect our teachers. So that all they're thinking about when they go to school is how to learn."

Legislators expressed that they hope to address the issue in the first week of the legislative session, which begins on January 16.