A 12-year-old who emailed multiple bombs threats to different Maryland schools recently was fully aware that, due to recent legislation, he or she could not be prosecuted because of their young age, police said.
“They understood that they could not be charged under current Maryland statutes,” Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones said in a Wednesday news release.
Mr. Jones said the 12-year-old, whose sex or identity has not been released, admitted to emailing a total of seven bomb threats to three different schools just north of Washington and as little as ten miles from the White House in the month of October.
Montgomery Blair High School received threats on Oct. 13, 16, 17, 23, and 24. Similarly, Oak View Elementary School and Silver Spring International School were targeted with separate email threats on Oct. 15.
“This reckless and dangerous behavior posed a direct threat to the safety and well-being of our schools and students,” Mr. Jones said.
Detectives from the 3rd District Investigative Section were able to identify the 12-year-old through coordinated efforts with the Montgomery County Public Schools IT staff.
Detectives spoke with the child, who admitted responsibility. They found, however, that the culprit was acutely aware that the state’s Juvenile Justice Reform Act, which was enacted last year, provided them immunity from prosecution.
The legislation, which was designed to decrease racial disproportionality and disparity in the state’s Department of Juvenile Services, protects anyone under the age of 13 from being charged with a crime unless it is a “crime of violence.”
A “Racial Equity Impact Note” presented on the legislation argued that preteens have a “diminished neurocognitive capacity to be held culpable for their actions and also lack the ability to understand legal charges against them.”
“It is disheartening to accept that the individual responsible for disrupting the educational process and instilling fear in our community was well aware of the legal limitations surrounding their age,” Mr. Jones said.
The Police Chief noted that, in addition to the fear and chaos these threats caused at the schools, the hoaxes affected the entire community.
“Dispatching officers and K-9 units to investigate these threats, especially when our resources are already stretched thin, diverted our personnel away from other pressing calls for service. This diversion of resources is unacceptable, and it jeopardizes the safety of our community,” he said.
“The safety of our community remains our foremost priority, and we remain steadfast in our commitment to protect and serve our residents.”
Maryland’s Juvenile Justice Reform Act, House Bill 459, came under scrutiny for the first time in January, when a 12-year-old student from Anne Arundel County did not have to face criminal charges after bringing a handgun and ammunition to school.
Police at the time said there were dozens of cases involving crimes such as auto thefts, burglaries, drug offenses, and more that remained unprosecuted because of the law.