Snapchat post prompts ‘shelter in place’ order at 4 Paso Robles schools

A threat made to Paso Robles High School left students and staff sheltering in place on Tuesday while police investigated.
A threat made to Paso Robles High School left students and staff sheltering in place on Tuesday while police investigated. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Students and staff at four Paso Robles schools were told to shelter in place on Tuesday afternoon after police learned of a social media message depicting a teen holding a handgun.

Officers responded to Paso Robles High School about 11:05 a.m. to investigate reports of a student hiding guns around campus, according to a news release from the city Police Department.

Police learned of the report from a student, who told investigators he received a Snapchat message showing another student holding a handgun.

Based on the nature of the report, police recommended that students and staff shelter in place at Paso Robles, Liberty and Independence high schools and Lewis Middle School. This meant teachers could continue class activities, but students couldn't move as they normally would on campus.

Parents received a message from the district about the incident that reassured them their children were safe.

"All students and staff are safe, and classroom instruction is continuing as usual," the message read. "Because the campus is secured, no one will be allowed to enter or exit."

During an afternoon news conference, Chris Williams, superintendent of Paso Robles Joint Unified School District, said the message indicated weapons may be hidden along the perimeter of the high school, at Centennial Park or in an alley between the schools.

"We are doing everything possible to guarantee the safety of your children," he said.

Police Chief Robert Burton said during the news conference that the shelter in place orders were "completely precautionary."

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"We can't afford to take any of that lightly anymore," he said.

Officers searched each campus and the park. Students were released from their schools and reunited with their parents after police lifted the shelter-in-place orders.

The orders for Lewis Middle School and Liberty and Independence high schools were lifted about 2:45 p.m., and the order for Paso High was lifted about 3:15 p.m., according to Martha Clayton, a district spokeswoman.

The investigation into the incident is ongoing, and authorities continue to interview students and examine evidence, according to the news release.

The incident marks the second time in a week that a San Luis Obispo County school district has required students to shelter in place. A school shooting threat posted on Instagram before a planned anti-gun violence walkout at Atascadero High School on March 14 led district administrators to cancel the protest and order students and staff to remain in their classrooms.

Gabby Ferreira: 805-781-7858, @Its_GabbyF

Lindsey Holden: 805-781-7939, @lindseymholden

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