Central York student, 13, charged with 15 felony counts for school threats

Written by Brandie Kessler and Teresa Boeckel/The York Daily Record | Feb 27, 2018 6:28 PM

Central York High School (Photo: Paul Kuehnel, York Daily Record)

(Undated) -- A 13-year-old girl has been charged with 15 felony counts of terroristic threats in connection with threats made to Central York School District last week.

The York County District Attorney's office announced the charges on Tuesday, the day after Central York resumed classes. School was closed three days last week because of the threats.

The girl is being charged as a juvenile because the offenses she's charged with don't meet the statutory criteria for an adult criminal offense, the district attorney's office said.

Investigators involved in the case couldn't be reached for comment about what penalties the girl could face.

York defense attorney Chris Ferro talked about the differences between the adult and juvenile criminal justice systems when it comes to possible punishments.

"There's a huge difference between the adult criminal justice system and the juvenile criminal justice system as it relates to penalty," Ferro said. "In the juvenile system, most sentencing is geared toward rehabilitation and treatment, not so much punishment."

There are no specific guidelines that mandate a specific penalty in the juvenile system, Ferro said. The judge has a lot of discretion with juvenile cases, and penalties could range from informal probation up to a long-term placement in a juvenile facility.

"There's always concerns of safety of the public, and I'm not saying that punishment doesn't play any role" in juvenile cases, Ferro said. "But the primary role is the child and the rehabilitative efforts to make sure this doesn't happen again." 

One thing that is common in the criminal justice system is ordering the payment of restitution when appropriate. Restitution is "a fixed cost for the harm caused to a victim and it is something that would have to be paid by a juvenile" as part of their sentencing, Ferro said. He said it would have to be determined whether police overtime pay stemming from a criminal investigation could be recouped through restitution.

Police began investing after two threats against Central York School District were discovered the night of Feb. 19 and the morning of Feb. 20. In response, police launched a task force and beefed up their presence at schools across the district. Central York School District, at the recommendation of police, closed Wednesday.

In the first threat, a Central York High School student on Feb. 19 overheard another in the hallway say, "Don't come to school tomorrow." Details became distorted as this information was shared and passed around on social media, police said.

A second threat, uncovered on social media the morning of Feb. 20, mentioned the police presence at the high school and in response, focused on the middle and elementary schools. Later that morning, another social media post threatened that the person would be "coming all week."

Springettsbury Township Police Department, the York County District Attorney's office and Central York School District held multiple news conferences last week to provide updates in the investigation.

On Sunday night, police held an impromptu 9:30 p.m. news conference where they announced they had identified the person responsible for the threats.

By then, however, the school district had already announced measures it was going to take in the interest of safety when children returned for school Monday, including prohibiting students from bringing backpacks to school and increasing the police presence at each of the district's schools.

Classes resumed Monday. School officials said the day went well.

This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and The York Daily Record

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