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Increase in juvenile defense over firearms and threats arrests

Four social advocacy groups recently released a report called, "Collateral Consequences" to draw attention to an increasing number of teenagers being arrested in Texas on charges of making terroristic threats and firearms violations. The report notes that this increase appears to be a result of recent shooting incidents in Santa Fe and Parkland. While some believe this increased vigilance keeps schools in Texas safe, others believe the juvenile defense and incarcerations could worsen the issue.

The report notes that there were no referrals for threatening to exhibit a firearm in 2016 and only five such referrals in 2017. From Jan. through May 2018, however, there have been 170 referrals. When terroristic threat referrals are added to this number, the total referrals skyrockets to 1,400.

The report argues that Texas schools should assess safety concerns using a research-based approach, rather than involving authorities right away. Researchers found that students aged 13 to 14 had the most referrals for both offenses. It also notes that disabilities rights may come into play, as some students may say things that seem threatening but are actually just the result of a disability.

The report published by these advocacy groups offers some alternatives to keep students safe, such as a multi-tiered threat assessment model. In cases like these, it is important to highlight the age of the alleged offender. It is also important to contextualize their comments and clarify that prison may not be the best place for the behavior to be addressed, particularly if the individual is disabled. A Texas juvenile defense lawyer will be able to help people accused of such crimes look into these issues to develop a defense.

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