DETROIT — Children as young as 9 years old were in custody this week in southeast Michigan juvenile detention facilities after they allegedly spoke about violence they might commit involving schools and students.
The arrests and charges involving youths across metro Detroit were part of a rash of similar “copycat” threats being tracked nationwide, following the Nov. 30 shooting at Oxford High School in Oakland County.
In two school districts in the area, at least two dozen students have been taken into police custody or charged in recent days in connection with threats of potential violence at schools or against other students, according to a local police chief and prosecutor.
Authorities have warned students that they face serious consequences for even playfully mentioning the idea of using guns at school or otherwise causing violence. Four students were killed and seven people were wounded last month during the Oxford shooting rampage.
In Waterford, about 20 miles from Oxford High School, Police Chief Scott Underwood said his officers investigated three reports of threats by students and took four children into custody, including two from an elementary school.
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A statement from Underwood said two 9-year-old students had a “‘naughty/nice’ list with several names on each, as well as the words ‘alive’ and ‘dead’ on each side of the lists.” They were taken to police headquarters and later turned over to their parents, with juvenile petitions to be submitted to the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office to consider charges, the statement said.
An eighth-grade student told another student that he brought a gun to school and mimicked shooting the gun with his hand, the statement said. In another case, an eighth-grade student indicated a type of gun and time and location when saying, “if I was a school shooter,” and mimicking shooting, the statement added. Both students had hearings pending Thursday.
Also in Waterford, two middle school students, who were taken into custody earlier this week after allegedly making threats, maderecent court appearances. Both were charged with knowingly making a false threat of terrorism, which could carry 20 years in prison, according to Underwood.
“Students who think this (is) a way to be funny, or gain some kind of recognition from their classmates, are making a very big mistake (and) it is imperative that parents have a serious conversation with their children,” Underwood said in the release.
In Wayne County, which includes Detroit, similar cases followed the deadly shooting at Oxford High school, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said.
“We have charged 18 youth in the last few days with crimes relating to school threats. Much has been written about these types of cases lately, yet still these serious events continue to happen,” Worthy said.
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Wednesday, her office charged a 14-year-old boy in Wyandotte, a 15-year-old boy in Detroit, a 17-year-old girl in Detroit and a 16-year-old boy in Detroit with threatening violence against schools.
Worthy added that, since 2018, her office has tried to educate parents and students about the risks of such behavior, with warnings translated into five languages. She said she recently sent letters about the problem to Detroit’s newspapers and other news media outlets.
“Quelling school threats is going to take the work of all of us,” she said. “It is also going to take facing head on the access our children have for guns and their fascination with them.”
Also Wednesday, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office said its detectives were investigating a disturbing note found in a restroom in a Rochester Hills high school. The note does not appear to constitute a credible threat, but detectives are investigating nonetheless, the sheriff’s office said.
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