Palm Beach County students expelled for mass shooting threats

3 students threaten mass shootings this school year, district documents show
Posted at 3:48 PM, Nov 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-02 17:12:36-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — The School District of Palm Beach County on Wednesday expelled three students for making a threat of a mass shooting this school year.

Educators want students and parents to know the district takes these threats very seriously, even if a student thinks it's a joke.


School leaders said they don't take any chances when it comes to school safety. So if a student makes a threat — whether they think it's a joke or actually have the ability to carry it out — the consequences are the same.

Posting or transmitting a threat of a mass shooting or terrorism is a violation of state law and will likely lead to an arrest and expulsion from school.

"It's probably the hardest part of my job is having to expel a student from a campus. However, safety comes first. We've learned that and we're going to take that responsibility extremely seriously," said Keith Oswald, the chief of equity and wellness for the School District of Palm Beach County. "We can't have a system where people go around and joke about these things, not when we see what happens, unfortunately like we saw at [Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School]. We're going to take every one of these seriously."

WPTV looked through expulsion documents in the School District of Palm Beach County and found three students expelled Wednesday for a mass shooting threat so far this school year.

Four were expelled during the 2021/22 academic year, one mass shooting threat during the COVID-19 year of 2020/21, and two for the 2019/20 school year.

"Every threat that comes onto a school campus has to have a threat assessment team go through a process to assess whether or not this is a high level threat — that it could be carried out — or if it's a low level threat," Oswald said. "So they go through a process that includes law enforcement, school administrator, someone with a school counseling background, as well as someone who knows this student that is involved."

Most of the time, the expulsion is for one calendar year and the student cannot attend a traditional public school in Palm Beach County.

Instead, they can attend one of the district's four alternative schools, do virtual school, homeschooling, or attend a charter school, if the charter accepts them.

The district's alternative schools not only provide education to students, but the wraparound services and counseling they may need.

Oswald said the school district really wants to address the root cause of the threat, whether the student thought it was a joke or if there are some other issues going on that require more in-depth counseling. Those services are offered at the district's alternative schools.

"We're going to make sure that student gets that additional support, so when they complete their expulsion — which is usually a year — that they are in a better position when they go back out into their school setting," Oswald said.

These expulsions apply to weapons as well. The School District of Palm Beach County has a Zero Tolerance Policy for weapons on school campuses, and that will also get students expelled from school.

In fact, six students were expelled Wednesday for bringing weapons onto school campuses.

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"You've got to watch your students and the choices they are making," Oswald said. "You've got to sit down with your kids and talk about, a joke is not a joke. It breaks the law. You are going to end up getting arrested, going before a court."