The Hoax that’s no Joke

“I want to blow up the school” are the seven words that will cost 17-year-old Braeden McDaniel a lifetime of consequences. Earlier this week, these seven words got McDaniel handcuffed, escorted out of his school and taken to Harris County jail.

Seven words now mean a lifetime of change. 

In only a few short days since his arrest, the consequences of his actions keep coming – on Thursday morning, a judge ruled that McDaniel is now required to find an alternative school and wear an ankle monitor. After being released from jail, he told various news outlets: 

"It was just me joking around"

“I said it in a sarcastic way and then someone else heard it and they thought it was a threat.”

“I screwed up.”

“Don't ever make threats like that. It's not a good thing.”

Unfortunately, school threats are happening way too often. It honestly seems like a daily occurrence nowadays and the thought of that makes me cringe. Parents, let’s think about the fact that kids want to joke around. Kids also try to deal with deeply emotional, frightening and overwhelming issues by making jokes. In this case, faced with a school community that’s on edge, these types of jokes will be taken seriously by all - including your peers and law enforcement. As a community we must do better about educating our youth about the risks and consequences of making or talking about making a targeted threat against a school. It is not something to joke around with. It’s just not worth the consequences.  

The Consequences (depends on the level of the threat)

Add to it that the threat – whether it’s directly said out loud, over social media, via text message, or through email – is a federal crime punishable with up to five years in federal prison. The person making the threat can face state or local charges. Let’s talk to our kids about the consequences including: 

  • Forever being labeled as a felon  
  • The risk of being federally investigated
  • If charged, it could mean probation or time in state prison
  • The immediate requirement to find an alternative school
  • The reality of having to wear a judge ordered ankle monitor

The Impact of a Fake Threat

  • Because each threat is taken seriously, EVERY threat is investigated and fully analyzed to determine its credibility.
  • Threats disrupt school – cause anxiety, fear, emotional distress to students, school staff and parents, places schools on “lockdowns”, etc.
  • Waste limited law enforcement resources – having to respond to fake threats diverts officers and uses up taxpayer money
  • Hoax threats could even put first responders in unnecessary danger

For Students:

  • Don’t ever make, post or send any fake threats… period. It is not worth it! No one cares that it’s a joke. 
  • If you are a target of a threat, alert your school immediately.
  • Familiarize yourself with how to report anonymously to Crime Stoppers of Houston, should you want to remain anonymous in your reporting (Note: All 3 ways to report are 100 percent anonymous.):
  1. Call the 24/7 Tip Line at 713-222-TIPS(8477)
  2. Download the Crime Stoppers of Houston mobile app on your phone and submit tips directly via the app
  3. Visit crime-stoppers.org to submit tips online
  • Once you’ve reported the threat, do not share or forward the threat until law enforcement has had a chance to investigate - this can spread misinformation and cause panic.
  • Be proactive about keeping your school safe – talk to your peers about the consequences of making fake school threats and ensure they too know how to use the Crime Stoppers Tip Line.
  • Take it a step further and invite Crime Stoppers to present to your student body about how to stay safe. 

For Parents:

  • If you are a parent or family member, know that some young people post these threats online as a cry for attention or as a way to get revenge or exert control.
  • Talk to your child about the proper outlet for their stress or other emotions.
  • Explain the importance of responsible social media use.
  • Talk to them about the consequences of posting fake threats.
  • If you sense that your child has changed, is struggling or writing about/talking about a plan against their school - take it seriously and find your child help immediately. If your home has guns in it, make sure there is absolutely no way he or she can access them. 

We are living in a new world when it comes to school safety- one in which students, teachers, parents and law enforcement are on edge. Don’t allow your child to be an instigator in such a complex problem. For their sake, your sake and all our sakes, it’s just not worth it.

About the author

Executive Director of Crime Stoppers of Houston