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Hampden DA Warns Of 'Serious Consequences' For Threatening School Violence

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WAMC
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A recent rash of unfounded threats of school violence brought a stern warning today from a top law enforcement official in western Massachusetts.

  During the last few weeks there have been 16 threats against schools in Hampden County – half were directed at schools in the city of Springfield. The perpetrators of the hoaxes ranged in age from 12-17 and were committed equally by boys and girls.

  " We are putting people in handcuffs and taking them out of their schools," warned  Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni.

He said the punishment for making a bomb threat can be up to 20 years in prison.  Even in the case of a juvenile offender, he said incarceration is possible in a Department of Youth Services facility.

" Whether the persons committing these acts think they are humorous, jokes, light-hearted incidents, they come with some serious criminal consequences," stated Gulluni.

Gulluni, at a news conference with Springfield Public School officials and Springfield police officers, said threats made through social media, or by some other means, are disruptive to the learning environment and a cause of worry to parents.

" So very simply, we want to tell young people across our schools systems that regardless of how you are doing this or why, this is very serious and is going to have penalties, and an affect on your life," said Gulluni.

Mayor Domenic Sarno said efforts to cause disruption in the schools will not be tolerated.

" Don't do it," admonished Sarno. "As has been shown by our police department, our school department and District Attorney Gulluni: you will be found, you will be caught, and you will be prosecuted."

The officials at Tuesday’s news conference stressed that school safety and security is the top priority. 

Superintendent of Schools Dan Warwick said “millions” have been spent on school safety.

" We've been criticized by some for having police officers in our schools, but I thank God every day we have them in our schools because we insure our kids are safe," said Warwick.  " We take every threat very seriously. We have hardened the target at our schools and we will insure our kids are going to be safe every day when they come to school."

School assemblies are being planned to reinforce the message that threats of violence can lead to criminal prosecution.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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