By Kathryn Kemp and Laura DeMassa
*student and teacher anonymity are maintained to protect the identities of the accused minors
**Update: As of Saturday, Oct. 29, it has been confirmed that all three students are now released from custody and are awaiting trial.
Three seniors were arrested for having allegedly made threats to carry out a shooting at MVHS on Oct. 10. According to Principal David Grissom, the police did not find any reason to believe that the threats were credible. However, students, teachers, and administration have continued to cite concerns regarding long term impacts within the school community and surrounding social media.
The students were arrested for violations of penal code 442, making threats, and penal code 182, conspiring to commit a crime. The images that were published on Snapchat and Instagram included messages such as “beware or be there, oct 10,” and screenshots of security footage from the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Colorado.
After the Mountain View Police Department received a report of the threats on Oct. 9, they proceeded to interview the students, search their houses and social media accounts, and detain them at Santa Clara Juvenile Hall. According to MVPD, one has since been “released by order of the court.”
Associate Superintendent Brigitte Sarraf said the district has not decided upon disciplinary actions, as they have not had the opportunity to complete “due process,” which requires meeting with the students involved.
MVPD notified the school of the threats on Oct. 10 at 6:30 a.m. According to Grissom, the district is conducting its own investigation, which involves additional student interviews.
Grissom said that although the posts were considered a “joke,” he is concerned that the threats were not reported until Oct. 9. Some students said they were aware of these threats weeks before MVPD was informed.
According to two friends* of the accused students, the threats were made to “get attention,” as at least two of the perpetrators felt “ostracized” from what they consider to be a largely “white, rich community.” The friends said that the students never intended to pursue the threats, but ignored warnings from peers to stop posting on social media.
After the incident, parents and students were concerned about the delay in the release of information. At 9:23 a.m. on Oct. 10, the school released a confidential email to teachers to inform them of the incident, and later sent out a similar message to parents and students at 4:30 p.m. According to Grissom, there was not enough information to notify students or parents at an earlier time. MVPD notified the community via Facebook on Oct. 10 at 2 p.m.
“I’m very upset that we weren’t notified about this threat,” said MVHS parent Deja Goodson in a comment on the MVPD Facebook post. “I don’t care if it was just a joke or not, each threat must be treated as such and parents must be notified.”
A student also reported initially being nervous about going to school upon hearing of the threats.
“I was really pissed that they made me not want to go school and not want to learn because I was worried for my life,” senior Julia Rogers said.
When she heard that authorities found no reason to believe the threat was credible, Rogers’s feeling changed.
“Once it was confirmed that it was a joke, a sick joke but a joke, knowing that they were going to face real consequences that would shape the rest of their lives made me feel grief. It felt like the punishment was too much.”
Grissom said that although some students are more aware of the situation, others were not as informed.
“I just heard that people were making threats…I’m surprised that would happen at our school,” freshman Eliza Archibald said. “I haven’t heard anything except from other people.”
The school had also planned an earthquake drill for Oct. 10 at 10:50 a.m., which worried students and staff because most of the school would be assembled on the open football field. Administration discussed cancelling the drill, but decided against it because there was no reason to believe the threats would be carried out.
“The timing of how information was distributed could’ve been better. We could’ve done the drill another time. It just increased anxiety,” a teacher* said. “This is the worst I’ve seen [seniors]and [this incident]heightened the stress…there’s less joy, less vibrancy, less laughter.”
Students report that teachers have acknowledged the incident in a variety of ways, allowing everyone to express their concerns.
“I suspected that many students were deeply affected,” the teacher said. “I wanted to find a safe way for them to say something authentically while protecting confidentiality. It’s important to acknowledge what happened.”
Long term solutions
This change in atmosphere has brought up more long term concerns for the MVHS community. Staff and administration have emphasized a need for more discussions pertaining to social media conduct. Academic counselor David Marroquin also said that he urges for MVHS to “be open enough to have dialogue” about issues that may have motivated the threats.
Moving forward, Grissom said that he wants to educate students on appropriate social media use. He hopes to invite members of MVPD, who have a curriculum regarding abuses of social media, to teach students and parents about their online presence.
“We need to be very transparent with one another to keep [the school]a safe place,” Grissom said.