Should Kids Who Threaten Schools Go To Court Or Restorative Justice? House Committee Is Divided. | KUER 90.1

Should Kids Who Threaten Schools Go To Court Or Restorative Justice? House Committee Is Divided.

Feb 19, 2020

A Utah House committee is divided over whether to require restorative justice for minors who make threats against a school. 

The bill in question, sponsored by Murray City prosecutor and Rep. Andrew Stoddard, D-Sandy, would make threatening a school its own crime prosecuted as a misdemeanor. 

Under the version of the bill presented at the outset of a House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice committee meeting Wednesday, if a minor makes the threat, the school would be required to put them through a program that focuses on rehabilitation rather than the juvenile court system. That could include something like group discussions with victims.

“This bill has been drafted in a way that will not increase the school-to-prison pipeline,” Stoddard said. “Ultimately, I want this bill to help kids by providing them with a greater picture of the consequences of their actions.”

If a school determines the restorative justice program is not working for a student, it can choose to refer the case to juvenile court. 

But, Republican members of the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice committee opposed requiring districts to use restorative justice, and instead wanted to give schools the option to choose a path for minors accused of making threats. After a motion by Republican Rep. Kim Coleman, the committee voted to delete all mentions of the program from the bill. 

“This is a problematic policy that prescribes for schools a particular paradigm that not every school might choose,” Coleman said. 

Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, said deleting the restorative justice language “pretty much guts the entire bill.”

The committee did not vote on whether to pass the amended bill and could still make changes to it at a later meeting. 

Sonja Hutson covers politics for KUER. Follow her on Twitter @SonjaHutson