San Diego

San Diego School District, Police Addresses Surge in School Threats

The San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) has received reports of at least 49 threats towards local schools in the weeks following a deadly shooting at a school in Parkland, Florida. 

SDUSD Superintendent Cindy Marten announced at a press conference Friday school police have investigated at least 49 threats and that the district would "make crystal clear" the steps they would take to handle such threats moving forward. 

Those 49 cases are from SDUSD, alone. There have been a number of school threats throughout the county.

Last year, the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) received 17 suspicious activity reports. From January 1 to March 10 of this year, the department received 23 reports, SDPD Chief David Nisleit said.

More than half were reports of school threats. 

"This increased number of threats has resulted in a tremendous cost to the district — a cost in terms of lost money, lost staff time and most importantly, lost instructional time," Marten said.

Marten said one threat alone resulted in a 60 percent drop in school attendance and 125 hours of overtime for school police so that the threat could be thoroughly investigated. The overtime has cost the district $10,000, according to the district's school police chief.

The district’s "three-pronged" approach would identify students who make threats, protect students from real threats and allow students to easily report threats, Marten said. 

"It's horrifying to learn that kids in high school would think about threatening school," Annie Parilla, a parent at Kearny High School told NBC 7. "This is not normal."

To protect students, school police would be transitioning to a computer dispatch system currently used by SDPD, school police Chief Michael Marquez said. 

Marquez said the money would be spent to build gates and fencing, install notification systems and buy more security cameras, Marquez said. Additionally, a site emergency response plan would be prepared unique to each individual school in the district. 

Marten said every investigation thus far had resulted in the identification of the student behind the threat. She and Chief Nisleit both credited students for reporting suspicious activity. 

Nisleit said anyone with information on a threat, even if it appears non-credible, should report it anonymously at or through the app called P3 Tips, which can be downloaded from the Apple Store or The Google Play store. 

Eleven juveniles have been charged with making threats against schools in San Diego County since the Parkland shooting, District Attorney (DA) Summer Stephan said. 

None of the threats were credible, police found, but charges were filed due to the nature of the threats.

"Just the words of making a threat of harm to a school, if that threat reasonably can make someone afraid, that is a felony crime of making criminal threats," Stephan said. "It does not matter if that minor does not intend to carry out that threat; if they didn’t make preparations to carry out that threat, it is still a felony crime."

The names of those charged were not released. The cases will be handled by the juvenile court. The suspects could face a range of punishment from diversion programs to custody. 

"We are asking every parent and every community member, to have a conversation — a very serious conversation — with their kids about this concept that just the words themselves can be a felony crime," Stephan said.

Since the deadly Parkland high school shooting on Feb. 14, law enforcement agencies in San Diego County have made several arrests regarding threats. Five arrests were made in the city of San Diego.

Most recently, a Serra High School student was arrested Wednesday in connection with a threatening message. The student suspected of leaving the message told campus police the threat was not meant to be taken seriously.

The threat was deemed unsubstantiated but the student was arrested because the threat was deemed criminal, SDUSD said. 

A student at Olympian High School has been arrested for posting a message on social media that threatened a shooting at the school.

On March 8, an Olympian High School student was arrested in connection with a threatening message posted on Instagram. Officers went to the student's home and interviewed her and her mother. 

The student told police she made the threat as a joke and thought it would be funny.

Three days earlier, a teenager was booked into juvenile hall, accused of making criminal threats on social media aimed at Canyon Crest Academy. The school is in the San Dieguito Union High School District.

A Borrego Springs High School student was suspended on March 1 for threatening to blow up the school. County prosecutors determined no charges would be filed in the case.

A 14-year-old West Hills High School freshman was arrested on Feb. 28 for posting a photo of an AR-15 rifle made out of Legos on Instagram with a caption that read, "Don't come to school tomorrow." 

On Feb. 27, a Westview High School student was arrested after he was overheard telling classmates to stay home, SDPD investigators said. The unidentified teenager was booked into juvenile hall. 

NBC 7's Rory Devine spoke with a handful of teachers and was unable to find one in support of the idea that educators should be armed.

On Feb. 26, a teenager, 17, who was a former student of Torrey Pines High School was arrested and accused of threatening to conduct a shooting at the school. It was the second arrest involving the school. In an unrelated case, a 14-year-old freshman was booked into juvenile hall for making verbal and written threats to harm others, police said.

A juvenile was charged for tagging various buildings on the campus of Rancho Bernardo High School, the DA said. The messages discovered by staff on Monday, Feb. 26 referenced the deadly Parkland shooting. 

On Feb. 23, an 18-year-old El Centro man was charged with making criminal threats against students and teachers at Imperial High School in Imperial County.

On Feb. 21, San Diego police were made aware of messages on social media threatening a shooting at two Clairemont schools - Madison High School and Creative Performing Media Arts Middle School. The next day, a second message was posted that added San Diego High School and School of Creative and Performing Arts to the list of possible targets. Officials with San Diego Unified School District said the threats were believed to be connected to a middle school student.

On Feb. 20, a message scrolled on the wall of a girls' bathroom prompted an increase in security at High Tech High in Point Loma. That same week, additional security was in place at San Marcos High School for a separate threat and at Scripps Ranch High School following a student's comment perceived to be threatening to public safety. 

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