ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — As schools across New York continue to receive a series of hoax threats, our Capitol Correspondent, Amal Tlaige took a closer look at legislation that would make school swatting a class E felony.
“We will find you. This is a serious form of terrorism; we have to send a message and that’s what this bill is all about,” said Senator Jim Tedisco, who is co-sponsoring a bill that would change the legal ramifications of school swatting. As of right now, swatting about an active shooter at a school is considered falsely reporting an incident in the third degree, a class A misdemeanor. Senator Tedisco along with other lawmakers want to change that to falsely reporting an incident in the second degree, a felony punishable by up to four years in prison. “The fact of the matter is that it’s having an emotional, psychological impact, its spreading fear, anxiety, tremendous stress, impacting the staff and the administration, our families and this cannot stand,” said Tedisco.
He said not only is this stressful, but lots of taxpayer dollars are spent when swat teams have to respond to bomb threats or guns in school. He explained that a felony offense would be more likely to get the FBI involved, making the chances of tracking those responsible more likely. “It could be young people, it could be adults, it could be some nations and countries which don’t agree with our way of life here. But as I said if we increase the penalties, bring in the federal government, and the FBI and they would have the technology to tell us that,” he said.
For Robert Lowry, Deputy Director of the New York State council of school superintendents, the swatting hits especially close to home for him. “My son works in a school,” said Lowry. He said last week, he was with a group of superintendents when he received text messages from his son, “They had gotten instructions to stay in place .. and he looked outside his room and saw a law enforcement officer carrying an assault rifle.” Lowry said this is disruptive and alarming for students, faculty, parents, and law enforcement, “Again I think there should be a heavy penalty… I’m not sure how much practical effect it will have, but it certainly cannot hurt.”
Governor Kathy Hochul gave an update today. “We’re investigating, we’re continuing to work with the FBI, but many of these threats are coming from foreign actors abroad, and so it’s very hard to trace, but I assure you that as soon as we find a culprit will be doing everything we can to stop any, any more of the swatting incident from occurring,” she said. Lawmakers are hoping to get the bill passed this session.