In a developing story, the Grundy County Herald recently tweeted that a school board member has been arrested for filing a false report that led to a school lockdown. According to the Herald, Grundy County Schools were on lockdown on November 27, 2017, because information was reported to a principal that a gun was supposed to be brought to school that day but without saying which school.
Depending on the facts, the school board member may be facing the most serious type of false report:
(3) Intentionally initiat[ing] or circulat[ing] a report of a past, present, or impending bombing, fire, or other emergency, knowing that the report is false or baseless and knowing:
(A) It will cause action of any sort by an official or volunteer agency organized to deal with those emergencies;
(B) It will place a person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury; or
(C) It will prevent or interrupt the occupation of any building, place of assembly, form of conveyance, or any other place to which the public has access.
T.C.A. § 39-16-502. The above version of false report is a C felony, which means it carries a sentence of three to 15 years, depending on range, and up to a $10,000 fine. Also, a conviction may carry some heavy restitution to the agencies that spent resources dealing with the threat.
Then again, there may not be a conviction. The State will have to prove the “knowing” element beyond a reasonable doubt, which may be difficult to do. Even if the school board member was wrong about a gun in a school, did she know that the story was baseless? If someone told her that a person was bringing a gun to a school, that’s not baseless, even if the story was ultimately false.
It will be interesting to see what a good attorney does with this case.