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Fears of school violence spark concerns among parents

By Miriam Raftery

December 16, 2015 (San Diego’s East County) – On Tuesday, an e-mail that threatened bombings and shootings caused Los Angeles Unified School District to shut down and 1,500 schools, impacting 650,000 students. Searches proved the threat was a hoax. A similar threat was received in New York City, where the school district opted to remain open, deeming the threats not credible.

Today,10 News reports that the L.A. e-mail  also warned, “If you cancel classes, the bombings will take place regardless, and we will bring our guns to the streets and offices of Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Bakersfield, and San Diego.”   

The e-mail writer claimed to be a Muslim who had been bullied in L.A. schools and claimed to be working with “32 comrades” willing to die. The hoaxter claimed to have pressure cooker bombs hidden in backpacks to be detonated with cell phones as well as “nerve gas agents” set to go off at lunch time,automatic weapons and grenades to massacre students “mercilessly.”


 The San Diego Sheriff’s Department early on deemed the threat “without merit,” Sheriff’s spokesperson Jan Caldwell told 10 News, though it was not clear how the department reached that decision before all L.A. campuses had been searched. All San Diego schools remained open.

The San Diego County Office of Education indicated that there were no reports of threats made directly to any local schools.  However, extra patrols were provided at San Diego schools “in an abundance of caution”, Mayor Kevin Faulconer stated.

But some parents are upset that they were not informed.  Ricardo Rodriguez told 10 News, “They should have notified us…so it would be my choice to send the kids or not.”

Fears of gun violence in schools are sadly nothing new in East County, where the Santana and Granite Hills high school shootings ranked for many years among the worst school shootings in the nation until tragedies such as Columbine and Sandy Hook eclipsed those deadly records. 

Ironically, just one day before the threats to schools across Southern California, East County Magazine received a letter to the editor from Alpine parent Lou Russo, who voiced concerns over the potential for attacks on schools in the wake of the San Bernardino massacre. 

Noting that officials from the Governor to the Sheriff all have armed guards or carry weapons, Russo called for action to protect students. 

“None of the schools here have armed guards. The Alpine Sheriff station covers a huge patrol area, from Alpine to the Imperial County line,” he wrote, noting that one of the San Bernardino terrorists had photos of schools on his cell phone and may have been plotting to attack a school.

Russo also voiced concern over a law signed by Governor Brown which forbids people with concealed carry licenses to carry guns on school campuses. He cited Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, who has urged “all armed citizens” to “take action in the event of mass violence or terrorism until law enforcement can arrive.”   Others have called for allowing teachers and staff to carry guns, a practice allowed in some states.

But allowing guns on campus can create its own set of risks, such as if a student wrests the weapon away from a teacher, or if a lawful carrier of a concealed gun  turns violent due to anger, mental illness, jihadist beliefs or simply a mishap. A Utah teacher was injured when her concealed gun went off accidentally in a faculty restroom, Reuters reported last year.

Some districts have turned to beefing up security, such as Florida’s Orange County school district, which has initiated random screenings with a hand-held metal detector, or other districts that have erected fencing, walls, and gated entries in an effort to keep students safe from harm.

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