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Diversion program for threatening video post

LISBON — The 10- and 11-year-old Beaver Local students accused of inducing panic after posting a threatening video online have been placed in a diversion program that will likely result in the charges being dropped.

Columbiana County Juvenile Court Administrator Dane Walton said the diversion program is for youths they determine through a risk assessment are unlikely to engage in the behavior again based on a number of factors, including whether they have a supportive family and been cited into juvenile court before, which was not the case with these two boys.

“We took into account their ages and the fact they had never been in trouble before,” said assistant county prosecutor K. Bret Apple.

The youths were placed in a 90-day diversion program. “It’s almost like probation. It can include counseling and community service, and if they successfully complete that, it all goes away,” Walton said.

The charges are a juvenile-court equivalent of a first-degree misdemeanor, but juvenile court has a policy against placing youths 12 an under at the county juvenile detention center. Even when youths are convicted, the court favors probation over incarceration, which is viewed as a last resort, depending on the seriousness of the offense.

“What they’re finding is the less you are involved in the system the better off you are,” Walton said, because incarceration exposes youths who are basically good kids to juvenile delinquents with extensive criminal records. This often results in the good kids adopting the habits of the others.

Apple said the charges were largely the result of the social medial reaction that occurred once news of the video hit a wider audience just before the start of school in late

August. The video was initially posted in June on a video app popular with the young. It was not brought to the school’s attention until Aug. 7, and police were then contacted.

Authorities were prepared to handle it internally until word of the video began to spread on social media just days before the start of school, resulting in the school district being inundated with calls and messages from concerned parents.

“The thing really took on a life of its own … Until that time the school and police had it under control,” Apple said. “It was like lighting a match.”

The one boy could be seen in the video wearing an antifa-type mask and saying, “You’re (expletive), you’re dead” to a boy he identified only by his first name,

The second boy, who was maskless, then entered the photo and grabbed what turned out to be a pellet gun and aimed it at the camera. “If you got a problem with that, I gun you down, (expletive),” he said, to no one in particular.

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