There is a spike in the number of school shooting threats being made on social media after the deadly Florida school shooting. School authorities and police officials are scrambling to prevent another senseless tragedy. A sense of danger lurks in schools all across America.
It was sheer good fortune for the students, teachers, and staff of El Camino High School in Whittier, California, that school resource deputy Marino Chavez overheard a student say something that chilled his blood. On Friday, February 16, 2018, Chavez overheard a 17-year-old student telling his classmate, “I guarantee you the school will be shot up in three weeks.”
El Camino High School, Whittier, California
Coming barely 48 hours after a gunman had opened fire at a Florida high school killing 17 people, the conversation was definitely sinister. Chavez immediately confronted the student who had an extensive disciplinary record. He said later “He didn’t appear scared, but he was like, ‘Well, I didn’t mean it.’”
A few hours later, investigators with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department searched the teenager’s home and found a cache of arms that included two semiautomatic AR-15 rifles, two handguns, and 90 high-capacity magazines. Sheriff Jim McDonnell said that he was grateful that his officers had the opportunity to prevent a major tragedy at the Whittier school.
The student has not been identified because he is a juvenile but has been held on suspicion of making criminal threats. His older brother, 28-year-old army veteran Daniel Barcenas, has admitted that the weapons found at home were his, and he has been booked for numerous crimes including possession of an assault weapon.
The teenager made the threat after becoming angry over rules that the school was enforcing in class.
Robert Jacobsen, an attorney for the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District, told reporters the reason why the student had made the threat. He said, “The teacher has expectations for the students to engage in learning during class time and told students to keep their cellphones and their earphones off so they can learn.”
Jacobsen continued, “And this student wasn’t happy about that…. At least what we understand at this time, it was simply over that.”
Community College Shooting Threat, Norco, California
On Monday, February 19, 2018, a 27-year-old man named Jacob Ryan McBain from Norco, California was arrested after he posted on Facebook that he meant to shoot people at a local community college. When the police searched McBain’s home, they found two loaded AR-15 rifles, two loaded handguns, and a big amount of ammunition in his bedroom.
This isn’t the only case of somebody making a threat to shoot up people at an educational institution. In recent days, law enforcement officials have been dealing with potential threats of violence in Long Beach, Inglewood, and San Bernardino.
Sheriff McDonnell said, “As we see these incidents occur one after another, we’re all looking to say, ‘How do we stop this?’” This is the question that is haunting the whole of America even as reports of gun threats at school are spiking after the deadly shooting in Florida on February 14.
Springfield High School, Springfield, Illinois
The Springfield High School threat is another such example. In reply to a threat circulating on social media that mentions “SHS,” the school is taking extra precautions from Thursday, February 22, 2018, such as having increased police presence and metal detectors at school.
While the threat does not specifically mention Springfield High School, 101 S. Lewis St., it has circulated around other geographic areas outside Illinois.
Bree Hankins, a Springfield School District spokeswoman, has said that the Springfield police have been in contact with police in other communities who are responding to the same social media posts. Police in two Ohio cities, Lima and Springfield, are also investigating. The police in Springfield have said that they investigated the post and believe that the SHS school threat is a hoax.
Lee County, North Mississippi
Police swung into action in Lee County in Mississippi when they were alerted to a Facebook post which said, “I will bring a gun to school tomorrow. Yes, SHS is the school I want.” This led several people to believe that the threat was about a high school in North Mississippi. After an investigation, Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson said that they had investigated the post and found that it was concerning Springfield High School in Ohio.
Central York Schools, York, Pennsylvania
Central York schools were closed on Wednesday, February 21, 2018, and will be closed again on Thursday, February 22, on a recommendation from the Police Chief of Springettsbury Township, Daniel Stump. The Central York High School threat was perceived after one student overheard another student say, “Don’t come to school tomorrow” on Monday, February 19, 2018.
This threat spread on social media, but after investigation, the police declared that it was unsubstantiated. However, there was an increased police presence at all Central York schools following the perceived threat.
Police Reach Out to Parents for Help
To make matters worse, two more threats were made on Tuesday, February 20, 2018, and they extracted a larger response from the police. The police chief said, “It was very direct to our schools and what (the police) were doing.” Police Chief Stump has asked parents to communicate with their children and said, “We need you to talk to them and find out what’s going on.”
Under a Dark Cloud
This spate of threats against schools has heightened the sense of insecurity being faced by both students and their families as they try to make it through each day. It has opened up a debate over the easy availability of guns and firearms with many people calling for stronger gun control laws.
Students, parents, school authorities, and law enforcement officials are working together to make schools safer for kids and staff even as the specter of violence hangs uneasily over their heads.