Can Children Make Terroristic Threats?

School BusCan children make so-called “terroristic threats”?  I suppose they can, however I wonder if the “grown ups” can react responsibly.

There is a story in the paper today about a boy in a suburban middle school sharing a list of names of other kids he reportedly wanted to kill.  (These stories are common, by the way.  Just get online and search.)  The boy in this story is thirteen.  I first respond to the kid’s age.  He is 13.  Can children that young be a threat?

Certainly they can, but how realistic is that threat?  And what is the real threat?  In this story the boy supposedly had a kill list.  When I was a boy, a common “threat” yelled at other kids who offended or wronged you was “I’m going to kill you!”  Of course no one thought they would actually kill or be killed.  The point was you were really mad…or more likely really frustrated.

Dangerous Classroom

Looks innocent enough, doesn’t it? But look for the potential threats in this photo. I see several! Muslim, gang sign instruction, non-English message…

I guess when I see this story I start to ask why it is a story.  Literally, why a story?  I’m not sure it does anyone any good to disburse this “news” to the community and beyond.  Let’s find out what this is all about first.  If the boy — a child — has a habit of threatening behavior or other signs of concern, work with that.  This is a boy.  Hardly a criminal.

But what about the seemingly normal children who have done horrible things?  This is certainly an issue and an outcome of an overly indulgent culture which is exceedingly tolerant of violence.  We aren’t going to change that sickness any time soon, but that hardly means we need to scapegoat our kids.

What I’m getting at here is simple.  Keep these non-news items out of the news.  Children do silly things and we have a propensity to overreact which only creates issues where none would otherwise exist.  If we’re sincerely worried that a thirteen-year-old might start knocking off his classmates, it seems to me that we have other issues to worry about much more significant than a young kid with a supposed kill list.


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