Wednesday, January 16, 2019     Volume: 19, Issue: 45

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on February 28th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 52 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 18, Issue 52

Violent threats increase against Santa Barbara County schools


A recent influx of students threatening Santa Barbara County schools has resulted in an increased security presence on several campuses, students missing school, and demands for school resource officers.

The most recent threat, allegedly made verbally by a 13-year-old Carpinteria Middle School student, was investigated on Feb. 23 by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office, according to the Sheriff's Office. The investigation, which included interviews with various students, staff, and faculty members, led to the student's arrest.

Although no operable firearms were found in the student's home, he was booked into the Santa Maria Juvenile Hall on a criminal threat charge later that day.

Threats toward schools are all taken seriously, according to Sgt. Brad Welch of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office, but whether or not a threat is worthy of legal action is decided on a case-by-case basis. In the Carpinteria situation, Welch said interviews with students indicated that there was a clear threat of mass gun violence made against the school, and several students were specifically victimized by the statement.

Although the suspect has been detained, Welch said there will be increased deputy patrols on and around the Carpinteria Middle School campus for the next few weeks, a school that lacks school resource officers. While patrolling campus on Feb. 26, Welch said students, faculty, and parents seemed to appreciate the heightened security presence.

Several other potential threats made by Cabrillo High School students were investigated by the Sheriff's Office the same week.

A month-old direct messaging conversation between two Cabrillo students via Instagram was investigated by several deputies on Feb. 22, according to the Sheriff's Office, after it "raised concerns" among students and staff. That investigation, however, did not lead to legal action.

The Sheriff's Office, with the assistance of the Lompoc Unified School District, also investigated rumors of an alleged Snapchat post and "hit list," but neither were determined to be credible. Still, the Sheriff's Office increased patrols at Cabrillo following the investigations.

The threats at Carpinteria and Cabrillo were investigated only days after the Santa Maria Police Department and Santa Maria Joint Union High School District discovered and investigated threatening Snapchats posted by two seperate students, causing more than 300 Santa Maria High School students to skip school on Feb. 16.

Welch said the increase in violent threats is almost certainly due to the highly publicized school shooting in Parkland, Florida, where 17 individuals were shot and killed on Feb. 14. It's not unusual for copycats to make threats after mass murder tragedies, Welch said. He was one of the officials who investigated the Isla Vista killings in 2015, and said that event spurred many similar threats.

"But I'm hopeful it'll die back down," Welch told the Sun.

Santa Barbara County isn't alone. Since the shooting in Florida on Feb. 14, more than 50 violent threats have been made against schools across the nation almost every day, according to the Educator's School Safety Network, an advocacy organization that has tracked news reports of threats and violence since 2016. Normally, the group tracks an average of 10 threats a day.

Several parents of San Marcos High School students in Santa Barbara are attempting to make schools safer for their children. Nancy Sheldon, a parent who started a petition to reinstate San Marcos High School's defunded school resource officer position, spoke in favor of increased campus security at the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meeting on Feb. 27.

School resource officers, Sheldon said, can create better relationships between children and law enforcement, and can find and help at-risk students. Her petition, which she submitted at the meeting, included more than 1,200 signatures.

"A good [school resource officer] creates a relationship with the students and gains their trust. Students then become more comfortable coming to them and talking about possible problems," Sheldon said at the meeting. "It gives the [school resource officer] the ability to step in before something bad happens, not after. We want to stop risky

Weekly Poll
Should Congress fund President Trump's border wall?

Yes. Our southern border is in crisis!
No. It's a waste of tax money!
We don't need an actual wall. Just beef up border security.
I'm more worried about the Canadian border.

| Poll Results