NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — School threats are now a growing problem, according to Tennessee’s Department of Safety and Homeland Security, which has seen numerous hoax calls since the start of the semester.

“I think we’ve had between 10 and 15 hoax calls this academic year…so, on average, one [threat] a week,” Deputy Commissioner of Homeland Security Gregory Mays said.

Just within the last month, Nashville’s Martin Luther King Jr. High School and John Overton High School dealt with this kind of threat. When hoax calls occur, Mays said it diverts resources away from real needs.

Finding the responsible party for these hoaxes can create a challenge for law enforcement. They have found both local students and people outside of the country committing such acts.

“You asked is it hard to find a person. Sometimes yes, sometimes no,” Mays explained. “Sometimes the caller or the person who makes the post on social media has anonymized their identity and it is difficult to find out who it is, and there has been incidences where the threatening communication was traced all the way back to overseas.”

A bill to increase the punishment for a school threat is on the table in the next legislative session. If lawmakers approve the bill, making a school threat would be a felony charge rather than a misdemeanor.

If you are aware of any threats against your school or community, you are urged to use the SafeTN app. The app allows you to submit anonymous tips about any kind of emergency to the proper authorities.

“As many as 80% of school shooters told somebody beforehand that they were going to do it, so we need to be able to tune our ears in to listen, to listen to those reports, and then act on them,” Mays said.

To learn more about the SafeTN app, click here.