Authorities: Shooting Threat at San Marcos High Deemed Unfounded

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San Marcos High School. Courtesy San Marcos Unified School District

A social media post originally believed to have threatened a school shooting at San Marcos High School Tuesday sparked an investigation that found there was no specific threat made to the school, law enforcement and school district officials said Tuesday.

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Despite the unfounded threat, sheriff’s deputies from the San Marcos substation planned to patrol the high school and nearby campuses in the San Marcos Unified School District Tuesday “out of an abundance of caution,” authorities said.

The district notified parents of the potential threat Monday night in emails, phone calls and online postings, telling families of “social media rumors of a possible shooting at San Marcos High School.”

“Law enforcement is actively investigating,” SMUSD Superintendent Melissa Hunt said Monday night in her messages to parents. “Deputies will be posted at the school tomorrow.”

Tuesday morning, district officials said that “after hours of investigation and cooperation from social media outlets, there is no evidence of a credible threat to San Marcos High School.”

The rumors began circulating on Snapchat, according to San Diego County sheriff’s Sgt. Daniel Deese.

“Detectives investigated the threats and found images and wording related to a recent arrest in South Carolina regarding a school shooting threat,” the sergeant said. “With cooperation from the social media outlet, it appears there were no specific threats targeting San Marcos High School, but images from the South Carolina incident were reposted.”

In a follow-up message on Facebook, the district said “the rumor was based on a photo of a freshman in South Carolina who posted a threat last week. Kids saw it in our district and reported it to authorities.”

The South Carolina incident in question appeared to be a posting made by a high school student there following last week’s shooting in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 people dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. In the hours after the deadly Florida shooting, the South Carolina ninth-grader posted a photograph of himself wearing a mask and holding what appeared to be an assault rifle with the caption “Round 2 of Florida tomorrow.” According to local media reports, that student was arrested and the weapon in the photo was determined to be an Airsoft pellet gun that looked like an assault rifle.

District officials in San Marcos thanked the community members who reported the potential threat and said the incident was handled as it should have been.

“Both our staff and law enforcement responded as we would expect in these circumstances,” the district said in a Facebook post. “We want all of our students to be safe and carry on with their education.”

Not all parents were happy with the district’s response to the incident.

Before the full explanation was given as to the threat, dozens of parents said on Facebook they would keep their children home from school. Other parents demanded more transparency once an explanation was given and said the district’s notifications Monday night only served to spread alarm.

“Your calls and emails caused district wide panic and fear,” parent Tracy Faris wrote in a response to the district on Facebook.

“I am extremely upset with how this entire thing was handled in the district!” wrote parent Kelley Crawford Kerscher on Facebook. “School should have been canceled today. In light of everything going on in schools these days, this year, you can’t invoke that kind of fear into parents and students throughout the district and then say, `false alarm, all good … see you soon.”‘

The shooting scare came at a particularly sensitive time less than a week after the deadly Florida shooting. It also came during the same school year during which a series of threats rocked the Poway Unified School District.

In early October, a student at Poway High School texted friends that “there would be a shooting at the school” and posted an image of the conversation on social media, though authorities investigated the claim and ultimately said the threat was unfounded. Roughly two weeks after that threat, near the end of October, students at Meadowbrook Middle School in Poway were found on consecutive days to be carrying “hit lists” containing the names of classmates and faculty at the school.

—City News Service

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