Does the punishment fit the crime?

A Pasco County middle school student could go to jail for more years than he's been alive for a threat he made online.

Bradley Prescott, who 10News WTSP is identifying under 10News Crime Guidelines because he is being charged as an adult with a second-degree felony, posted this chilling message on a social media app: “Hello I am going to kill kids at Seven Springs Middle School on Friday the 7th of October 2016. Get ready 6th graders for your worst day and your last.” The post was accompanied with the picture of a creepy looking clown.

Prescott told deputies he thought the threat was funny.

Deputies did not find any physical evidence that the boy planned to carry out any attacks at the school.

It's the latest in a rash of clown threats, many being directed at local schools, but this time the child behind it, faces up to 15 years behind bars.

It's raised a debate over whether that punishment is too tough.

Eric Fowler of Tampa says, "Punishing him by going to jail would not be the right answer for a 12-year-old. You'll just make him worse."

Aaron Sasser agrees, "A joke is a joke and it's not serious in my opinion."

But Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco says he takes all threats to kill fellow students seriously.

"How many times do we have to stand here and tell people this is not a joke,” he urged during a press conference announcing the boy would be charged as an adult.

Tami Carter’s daughter attends Seven Springs, where the threat was made. She kept her home from school Tuesday to keep her out of harm’s way. “It's going to set an example for any other kids out there that plan to do something like this. It affects everyone at the school and all the parents and it's really scary so I think the charges are appropriate,” she stressed.

John Castro, a Tampa attorney and former state prosecutor for the juvenile division, also weighed in saying, "I've seen it first-hand how it is a very slippery slope where kids make one decision that is with them the rest of their lives."

Castro says the state attorney and a judge will get the final say. They'll dig deeper into the child's behavior and school records before making a final decision.

He adds this is something all parents can learn from, "I think it's important to educate kids now more than ever that things online are not anonymous and are not a joke and if you make serious threats it is something that is going to be taken seriously."

Bottom line – local attorneys tell us throwing a child behind bars for a threat without evidence he was planning to hurt others, would be rare.

More background on the case:

Pasco arrests 12-year-old in clown threat

County issues alert in clown case

Real or fake? Clown recorded in Pasco