5 things parents should know about school emergencies
In the wake of the Wednesday’s school shooting in Florida, two Santa Maria High School students were investigated by police for social media posts sent out Thursday suggesting possible local gun violence.
The first incident took place Thursday morning when a ninth-grader posted a screenshot on SnapChat alluding to Wednesday’s Florida massacre, commenting “just wait until that same headline comes up on your mom’s television one day, but it will have Santa Maria High School instead, and over 500 dead.”
The second incident came from a 12th-grader who sent out an image Thursday night at about 11:30 p.m. of a handgun with the caption “F--- it!” Santa Maria police later determined the weapon was a BB gun pistol.
Police interviewed both students, who were not arrested because their posts didn’t meet the legal standard of criminal threats, police said.
“The law of criminal threats is pretty specific, and they didn’t cross that threshold,” Santa Maria Police Lt. Russell Mengel said. “We reviewed the two incidents with the District Attorney’s Office. We applaud the community for notifying us and allowing us to respond to this quickly.”
The students, however, will face pending school disciplinary action ranging from suspension to expulsion, said Kenny Klein, a public information officer for the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District.
The students aren’t being named, and their disciplinary histories aren’t being discussed because of school confidentiality considerations, Klein said. Both are minors.
“The district and law enforcement take all of these matters seriously,” and the district will take appropriate disciplinary action, Mark Richardson, the district’s superintendent, said in a statement.
Soon after word of the threat spread, dozens of parents lined up in front of Santa Maria High to remove their children from class early, as police and school officials later tried to calm concerns about any high risk of a gun violence incident.
Klein said he didn’t know how many students were pulled out of school by their parents Friday but that the school didn’t issue any evacuations.
The first incident was brought to the attention of school resource personnel by students at about 11:30 a..m. Thursday and the second was reported to police through a 911 call, as parent concerns heightened and the word spread Friday morning.
Mengel said the incidents are a good reminder to teens who may be joking or trying to scare people on social media to be aware of legal and school administrative consequences.
“Students who do this as a joke or a jest may be looking at criminal charges or expulsion from their schools,” Mengel said.
Klein said that Santa Maria High teachers spoke with students Friday in classes about appropriate social media use and reporting concerning behaviors.
Students also undergo awareness training on social media use during the course of the school year.
The incident comes following Wednesday’s mass shooting in Florida in which 17 people were gunned down at a high school in Broward County, allegedly by a former student. The suspect, Nikolas Cruz, has reportedly confessed to the shootings.
Authorities have called for people to report any suspicious activities as soon as possible.