ON CAMPUS: Even non-credible threats worth telling

Posted by Nan Austin on March 7, 2013 

Education Reporter

Nan Austin/naustin@modbee.com A news crew shoots in front of Modesto High School after fourth period lunch ends without incident in Modesto, Ca., on Wednesday, March 6, 2013.

NAN AUSTIN — Modesto Bee

— Modesto City Schools took a serious attendance hit because of a what turned out to be a bogus note threatening to "kill every one" during Wednesday's first lunch at Modesto High School.

The note was found by a student who photographed it with a cell phone before turning it in Monday afternoon. School district administrators said they immediately turned it in to Modesto Police Department, which investigated and deemed it to not be a credible threat.

But it still was worth mentioning to campus supervisors, which union President Aaron Castro did not happen until after the picture when viral on Facebook and Twitter Tuesday night. "It was my understanding they did not find out until after," Castro said.

Crime Stoppers sent out a press release Thursday, saying the tips to Students Speaking Out began coming in at 11 p.m. the night before March 6 about the incident. Operators immediately sent that word to MPD and the school.

The Bee was tipped to the note and was gathering information about the scrawled death threat Wednesday morning for an online story when Modest City's Public Information Officer Becky Fortuna called to let the public know there would be extra security on campus and the district was on top of it.

That went online and parents reacted, pulling 362 students out that morning. District administrators at the school during that lunch period seemed vigilant, but also angry that so much was being made of a social media manic moment.

They were right, in this case, that the threat was not credible. But I have to wonder if parents' would have had such knee-jerk reactions if the conversation had been the night before, talking over a school note saying this happened, we're on top of it, instead of learning even a non-credible threat existed moments before it was supposed to take place.

Many students there that day said they knew of the threat and had those conversations, but came because they knew the school -- in part because of its diversity and geography -- is a safe place. Bottom line, they trusted the school, maybe more than the school trusted them.

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