Judge Del Atwood sentenced David Nicholas Cummings, 21, of Pine Tree to a nine-month conditional sentence order, which includes three months’ house arrest and 50 hours’ community service, after he pleaded guilty to a charge of uttering a threat and interfering with school operations in connection with an incident at Pictou Academy this past winter.
On Dec. 9, 2014, RCMP were alerted by the school principal that a message had come through one of the student’s Facebook accounts that a shooting would take place at school that morning.
Crown attorney Jody McNeill said a message was posted at 6 a.m. that morning from Cummings on a Pictou Academy student’s Facebook page that a shooting would take place at 11 a.m. He said in the message that the person who was going to do the shooting was a friend and that he saw the gun that was going to be used.
Pictou County RCMP arrested Cummings a short time later but in the meantime the school implemented a hold and secure status that means the school is locked to outsiders, but classes continued as normal. RCMP said the suspect was never on school property.
Atwood ordered that Cummings must complete his community service within the first six months of the sentence time and he must provide regular updated status reports on his search to employment to a probation officer. In addition, he must also attend counselling for both mental health and substance abuse.
“If what you did on Dec. 9 was a result of having too much free time, you need to fill your time up with something productive,” Atwood said during Monday’s sentencing. “You need to make amends for what you did. It had a profound impact on the school and the community.”
The Crown and defence had a common recommendation of a 90-day conditional sentence order followed by nine months’ probation and both agreed that Cummings posted the “prank” because he was bored and didn’t realize the trouble it would cause.
MacNeil added that Cummings is not in school and is unemployed with no intention of looking for work.
“He was bored and committed the offences out of boredom,” he said.
Atwood said based on past incidents at schools across North America involving school shootings and violence, he found it difficult to believe that anyone wouldn’t know that such a threat would not be taken so seriously.
He said it used up valuable resources of the school and RCMP and a stronger message of denunciation and deterrence was needed other than the recommended 90-day sentence.
“This was an extremely serious threat against an educational institution in Pictou County,” he said, adding that social media can be an effective tool to get positive information out to the public, but the court has heard many cases where it has been used to convey threats and instil fear in people and the community.