Maine Senate enacts Sen. Carney bill to prevent hoax school shooting reports
AUGUSTA — On July 25, the Maine Senate enacted a bill from Sen. Anne Carney, D-Cape Elizabeth. As amended, LD 405, “An Act to Prevent False Reporting Leading to Evacuation, Shutdown or Lockdown,” will make a false public alarm or report to an emergency communications center a Class C crime if it caused evacuation, shutdown or lockdown of a school or other public facility.
On Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, ten Maine schools – representing a total of 5,679 Maine students – were the target of false school shooting reports. As a result, schools went into lockdown, law enforcement and emergency medical service providers prepared to respond, and hospitals prepared emergency departments. Maine’s current false public alarm or report statute law has not been changed since 1977, which was prior to the widespread use of the 9-1-1 system, and would not have covered the recent “swatting” incidents. As amended, LD 405 will update Maine’s false public alarm law to include reports made through 9-1-1 calls and to emergency communications systems. It will also make a false public alarm or report a Class C crime if the violation causes the evacuation, shutdown or lockdown of a building, school, public square or park, place of assembly or public transportation facility.
“What happened in Maine was deeply disturbing for students, teachers and parents,” said Sen. Carney. “It also caused a significant public safety response, in one community drawing every officer on duty to the targeted school. This change ensures that when a false alarm is made to an emergency communications center or the 9-1-1 system, our laws will provide both a deterrent effect and an enforcement mechanism. Going forward, those who terrorize Maine schools through hoax calls will be held accountable. I am grateful for my Senate colleagues supporting this bill that will help keep schools safe.”
During the public hearing for the bill, Judi Richardson, a parent in South Portland told the committee, “As we all know now, the situation was a ‘hoax’; but, at the time, the schools had to lockdown, police had to show up as a full tactical response, and medical facilities had to prepare for the worst. This ‘hoax’ created an extremely emotional, stressful, and traumatic situation for all students, staff, families, and the greater community.”
LD 405 now goes to the Governor’s desk, where she has 10 days to sign it, veto it or let it become law without her signature.