In Warren County school threats, judge turns to polygraph exams

In school threat cases, judge turns to polygraph
Posted at 6:08 PM, Mar 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-07 07:41:03-05

LEBANON, Ohio -- Law enforcement officials accused one teenage boy of posting a threat on Snapchat about a "school shooting/bombing."

Another mentioned in his English class how he'd bring a gun and shoot up the school, officials said. A third is accused of telling friends he'd shoot up a school because he "can't take it anymore." The fourth teen made threats of violence on social media, police said.

The teens, all male, were charged with inducing panic in Warren County.

And all of them agreed to undergo polygraph exams as Judge Joseph Kirby tries to figure out if they were serious, and what punishment they may deserve.

Tri-State Polygraph Associates handled the cases.

Don Clark, a forensic polygraph examiner with Clark-Dye and Associates, said it's usually a "very easy" process with children because they like to talk -- especially if they feel they've been falsely accused. He starts with a complete, constructive background interview, covering "anything and everything" that might help him get a feeling about the child.

But polygraph examiners cannot ask about intent, he said.

"With anything on a polygraph, it has to be  'yes' or 'no.' The question has to be 'yes' or 'no.' Anything that’s whether the mind can wander or something, you're not going to get a good response," he said.

The first two suspects were in Kirby's courtroom Tuesday afternoon. The judge said he needed a way to find out whether their threats were real or not, and so he turned to polygraph tests.

"Are they perfect? No, but I would submit they're more reliable than taking someone's word for it," Kirby said.

Kirby ruled a 17-year-old from Lebanon posed no threat and could go to an alternative school. He will also be under house arrest. He has been in juvenile detention since the threat was made.

Another 17-year-old will also be released, Kirby ruled. He will go back to school at Warren County Career Center.

A parent described the arrest as a "nightmare," saying the threat was merely a joke.

There's been a spike in school threats since the massacre at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Warren County has had six cases involving a juvenile suspected of making threats against a school or other students. David Marcus, a Greater Cincinnati psychologist, previously told WCPO that's a sign America's children need more support, more nurturing and more socialization.

"This rash of threats now, they saw these kids on TV from Parkland and they said, 'Gee that's really cool, I'd like to get that kind of attention, too,'" Marcus said.