The Zero Tolerance Safe School Environment Act was up for a public hearing Wednesday before the legislature's Judiciary Committee. The bill would increase the penalties for making threats against schools.
Committee co-chair Representative William Tong says anything perceived as a threat to schools causes panic in the community and is a huge waste of resources. Tong says threats against schools must be punished more severely because of what he called the post-Newtown environment.
The current Class D crime is punishable by 5 years in prison, but the bill would change the crime to Class C, which has a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
New Fairfield Representative Richard Smith was among the committee members who asked questions about this bill. He wondered if the bill would have an effect on youths if they don't know the difference between the classifications. Stamford Superintendent James Connelly responded the big incidents are mostly cases of swatting. He says it's not teenage pranksters, it's cyber terrorists.
Smith says the bill should differentiate between a some third party actor and a student.
Smith says he understands the devastating effect these threats have on the community and the school system, so for an outside person the high penalties are certainly justified. For a student, Smith says maybe they're not aware of how much damage their actions cause.
Smith also called for education throughout the schools to make kids aware that this is no longer a prank and can be characterized as terror and has serious ramifications.