Law enforcement backs bill to update Idaho's school threat statutes

BOISE, Idaho - Members of Idaho's law enforcement community were inside the Statehouse Monday supporting a bill to change Idaho statute when it comes to violent threats against schools. 

"It's time we look at the potential for what happened in Florida to happen in Idaho; we are not exempt from that," the bill's sponsor, Rep. Pat McDonald, R-Boise, said. 

Under current law, Idaho's police officers can't bring charges for school threats if the threats are made on social media or off school grounds. 

Without specific language in Idaho code, officers said they are often left without charges to bring against the person making the threats. 

Officer Stu Hobson with Nampa Police testified that, in one situation, his department investigated a threat made online, established a command post at the school and had detectives track down the two male students that made the threat. 

"In the end were were able to show, yes, these two young men were the ones who made the threat, and we were not able to take any law enforcement action against them," Hobson said. 

The bill would also create a provision for a felony charge if the person making the threat was also in possession of the weapon they said they would use in the attack. 

Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, said the bill comes to the legislature through a law enforcement advisory committee that serves through the Office of School Safety & Security.

"We have a gap in our statute," Horman said, "[It] has not been adjusted since 2006."

Some committee members raised concerns the bill could be too vague or could infringe on First Amendment rights. 

"My concern with this kind of language in any legislation is are we on the verge of becoming thought police?" Rep. Christy Zito, R-Hammett, said. "Do we actually have an incident until we have an action?"

Ultimately, the committee moved to send the bill to General Orders where some of the bill's language can be amended before reaching the House floor for a vote.

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