Disruption on School Campus

After the devastation of the shooting at the Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, law enforcement officers throughout the country increased their “arrest first and figure it out later” approach when a student is accused of disrupting a school.

The Florida Department of Education defines the term “disruption on campus” to mean “disruptive behavior that poses a serious threat to the learning environment, health, safety, or welfare of others.”

Accusations of disrupting a school often lead to the school seeking to expel the child or at least change the child’s placement to an alternative school. These accusations of causing a disruption on campus are classified as “Major (DOC) – Level III” in Hillsborough County and throughout the State of Florida.

Attorney for Charges of “Disrupting a School Campus” in Florida

If your child was accused of disrupting a school campus by committing a delinquent act such as pulling a fire alarm, calling in a bomb threat, or making an online threat on social media to use a firearm on campus, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Sammis Law Firm in Tampa, FL.

We are experienced in these types of cases. We have represented middle school students and high school students in juvenile court and at the informal school disciplinary hearings concerning expulsion or a change of placement. We represent students accused of delinquent acts throughout Hillsborough County, Hernando County, Pasco County, Pinellas County, Manatee County and Polk County, FL.

Contact an experienced juvenile defense attorney in Tampa, FL, at Sammis Law Firm. Call (813) 250-0500 to discuss your child’s case today.

Level III Incidents for Causing a Disruption on Campus

The following types of acts have been found not to rise to the level of causing a disruption on campus:

  • disrupting a single class;
  • refusing to sit down or spoke loudly on the school bus;
  • using obscene language or an inappropriate gesture;
  • showing disrespect to another; or
  • defying the authority of a teacher or school administrator.

Examples of disruptive behavior that can occur on campus include a student or another person that did one of the following:

  • made a bomb threat or threatened to shoot someone or something in the school with a firearm;
  • deliberately crashed the school computer system;
  • pulled a fire alarm;
  • incited a riot;
  • caused an incident that results in closing the cafeteria;
  • engaged in disruptive behavior that causes the bus driver to stop the bus to ensure the safety of the group;
  • caused an incident that prevents other students from proceeding to the next class or prevents egress.

Only incidents that disrupt all or a significant portion of campus should be classified in SESIR as a DOC-Major event or a “Violent Incident if it Results in Bodily Injury.” Even minor events might be reported on the local student discipline referral form.

Juvenile Delinquent for Causing a Disruption on Campus

In many of these cases, the student is arrested for making a bomb threat under Florida Statute Section 790.162 or making a false bomb report under Florida Statute Section 790.163. School officials are required to refer such incidents to local law enforcement officers for investigation and prosecution.

If a petition is filed in juvenile court or if a charging document is filed in adult court, then the offense is a felony offense that might result in expulsion for at least one year. Other offenses that can lead to an expulsion hearing for causing a disruption on campus can include any of the following:

  • 790.163 False report about planting bomb or school shooting;
  • 806.101 False alarms of fires;
  • 790.166 Manufacture, possession, sale, delivery, display, use, or attempted or threatened use of a weapon of mass destruction or hoax weapon of mass destruction prohibited; or
  • 790.162 Threat to throw, project, place, or discharge any destructive device.

Additional information about the duties of the district school board related to student discipline and school safety – threat or false report can be found in 1006.07(2)(l).

Pursuant to Section 1006.13(4)(c), Florida Statutes, “Zero-tolerance policies do not require the reporting of petty acts of misconduct and misdemeanors to a law enforcement agency, including, but not limited to, disorderly conduct, disrupting a school function, simple assault or battery, affray, theft of less than $300, trespassing, and vandalism of less than $1,000.”

Threats or Intimidation on Campus in Florida

Any threat or intimidation (TRE) is also classified as a Level III incident according to the Florida Department of Education. The threat to cause physical harm to another person with or without the use of a weapon includes all of the following elements:

  1. intent– an intention that the threat is heard or seen by the person who is the object of the threat;
  2. fear – a reasonable fear or apprehension by the person who is the object of the threat that the threat could be carried out; and
  3. capability– the ability of the offender to actually carry out the threat directly or by a weapon or other instrument that can easily be obtained.

Examples of a threat or intimation that should be classified as a Level III incident include stalking or cyberstalking another student. Related criminal charges can include any of the following:

Florida Statute Section 877.13 – Disrupting a School

Under Florida Statute Section 877.13, it is unlawful to do any of the following:

  • Knowingly to disrupt or interfere with the lawful administration or functions of any educational institution, school board, or activity on school board property in this state;
  • Knowingly to advise, counsel, or instruct any school pupil or school employee to disrupt any school or school board function, activity on school board property, or classroom;
  • Knowingly to interfere with the attendance of any other school pupil or school employee in a school or classroom;
  • To conspire to riot or to engage in any school campus or school function disruption or disturbance which interferes with the educational processes or with the orderly conduct of a school campus, school, or school board function or activity on school board property.

The statute for disrupting or interfering with the lawful administration of a school applies to all educational institutions, school boards, and functions or activities on school board property. Nothing in the state denies any public employees the opportunity to exercise their rights pursuant to part II of chapter 447.

The penalties for a violation of Florida Statute Section 877.13 are charged as a misdemeanor of the second degree which is punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

A broad interpretation of the statute would turn virtually every infraction of school rules into a criminal act when the infraction occurred on school grounds, during school hours, and required the attention of school officials. For these reasons, the courts have limited the application of the statute.

For this reason, the courts have recognized that not every school fight, and not every event which draws other students’ attention, amounts to disrupting an educational institution in violation of section 877.13(1)(a).

Cases discussing the statute distinguish between the “run-of-the-mill” physical altercations between students from other actions which are intended to and actually disrupt or interfere with a school’s administration. For example, in H.N.B., 223 So.3d at 310, the court found that: “The statute is designed to prohibit acts that are specifically and intentionally designed to stop or temporarily impede the progress of any normal school function or activity ….”

Likewise, in A.M.P. v. State, 927 So.2d 97, 100 (Fla. 5th DCA 2006), the court found that: “[T]he prohibited conduct requires some sort of purposeful interference with school activities.” In L.T. v. State, 941 So.2d 551, 552 (Fla. 2d DCA 2006), the court found that: “This offense contains a specific intent element ….”

Florida Statute Section 806.101 – Pulling a False Fire Alarm

Under Florida law, related offenses include pulling a firearm alarm falsely. Florida Statute Section 806.101 provides that anyone “without reasonable cause, by outcry or the ringing of bells, or otherwise, makes or circulates, or causes to be made or circulated, a false alarm of fire, shall for the first conviction be guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree.”

A first offense of falsely pulling a firearm is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. A second or subsequent conviction under this section is punishable as a felony of the third degree punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Additional Resources

Disruption on Campus – What happens if a student does something on campus or off campus that disrupts the school, such as calling in a bomb threat or posting a written threat to shoot someone at the school using a firearm? Learn more about the penalty imposed by the educational institution or school board for causing the disruption on campus under Florida Statute Section 877.13.

This article was last updated on Tuesday, May 11, 2021.