School threats more than triple year-over-year in Martin County

WPTV digs deeper into how threats are investigated by school district, law enforcement

WPTV | By: Stephanie Susskind | April 24, 2023

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — WPTV is digging deeper into school threats and how they are investigated.

This comes as the Martin County sheriff revealed his agency has investigated more than triple the number of threats this school year so far compared to all of last year.

“Obviously it makes every parent think it could be the worst possible scenario at my child’s school,” Martin County mom Caitlynne Palmieri said.

Palmieri is not surprised the sheriff’s office said it’s investigated at least 72 threats in Martin County schools so far this school year compared to 19 for all of last year.

“It definitely feels that way for the school community, teachers, parents, and staff,” Palmieri said. “I think we all know it’s just becoming more and more of a threat at our schools.”

“I think it’s a trend that’s happening across the country, not just in Florida,” said Frank Frangella, the director of safety and security for the Martin County School District.

Frangella is part of a district-wide team overseeing what happens when a school threat is detected, often online.

“We’re taking them a lot more serious now,” Frangella said. “So maybe something that wouldn’t have been looked at years prior are now being looked at.”

Frangella said every Martin County public school has its own threat assessment team made up of administrators, the school resource officer, and a mental health professional that respond in these situations.

“It’s more to help the student out to make sure it doesn’t escalate any further and to get that person back on track,” Frangella said.

“How important is it to not only look at if it’s a legitimate threat, but to provide those services to the student who made the threat?” WPTV education reporter Stephanie Susskind asked Frangella on Monday.

“It’s very important,” Frangella replied. “In years past, what we’ve learned is we weren’t speaking to each other. So the collaboration we have now with our mental health partners, law enforcement, other districts in case the student came from somewhere else, everybody is involved now. So you get all the pieces of the puzzle.”

When a threat is reported, the Martin County Sheriff’s Office is immediately brought in.

Martin County Sheriff William Snyder recently told WPTV the toll it takes on his department to constantly investigate school threats.

“I have four full-time deputies — one of which is a sergeant — that do nothing but threat assessments,” Snyder said.

The sheriff’s office and school district work together to make sure the student in question is held responsible and also gets the help they need.

“We’re doing it behind the scenes,” Frangella said. “Most of them are not going to be founded.”

“Don’t threaten people with your phone. Don’t write a threat. Don’t scroll it on the bathroom. Leave your fellow students in peace. Let them go to school and learn,” Snyder said.

“Is this just the world we’re living in now?” Susskind asked Frangella on Monday.

“I don’t know exactly what is happening,” Frangella answered. “What we can do as a school base and our partners in law enforcement if something is going on in that student’s life, we gotta find out what’s going on and get that student help.”

Help to prevent the trend from continuing.

Students who make threats are arrested and suspended and face expulsion from school.

WPTV reached out to our other area school districts to find out how their threat investigations compare.

So far, our news team has heard back from St. Lucie Public Schools, which said it investigated 23 threats last school year and 31 through mid-April this school year.

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