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'My office does not treat it as a joke': Muskegon County prosecutor reacts to rise in school threats

Posted at 11:36 PM, Dec 07, 2021

MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. — It's that unsettling feeling a lot of parents are having in Michigan.

"We don't know where the threats originated," says Nicole Garza, whose child attends Fruitport Community Schools. "We don't know who started it. We don't know if that's been closed. We keep getting emails saying that it's under investigation."

Garza's only child is a sixth grader. Last week, a threat was made at his school, leading to canceled classes Friday and Monday.

School opened back up Tuesday, with added precautions like police in the buildings.

But many parents like Garza are still dealing with the sense of insecurity.

"And as a parent, you also have to think about, 'Yes, I want him to get an education.' But how much of an education is he going to receive? If he's sitting in class terrified?"

School threats are happening all over the state at an alarming rate.

"When an incident happens at a school, whether it be college or high school or elementary, that does seem to heighten the 'want' to copycat or to at least throw a threat out there," says Muskegon County Prosecutor DJ Hilson.

Muskegon County alone is investigating six cases. They now have a task force comprising of 10 law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and Michigan State Police.

Hilson says this is going to allow them to share information better and quickly solve these cases.

"My office does not treat it as a joke," says Hilson. "Law enforcement doesn't treat it as a joke. The school systems don't treat it as a joke."

It's not a joke or a laughing matter. Hilson says the person who makes a threat could face harsh consequences, adding they're looking at what to do with a juvenile for the threat made against Mona Shores School District. He says he'll be looking at separate cases involving Oakridge and Whitehall.

"My level of discretion, I guess, could be a charge that would be a misdemeanor, all the way to a charge that might be felony-level material."

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