By Kaitlyn Chan, Editor-in-Chief
Numerous incidents of threats made against student safety have arisen across various high school campuses, including Mills, indicating the possibility of a copycat effect striking the district.
Mills, Capuchino, San Mateo, Peninsula, and Hillsdale high schools have discovered threats of school shootings and bombings written inside their student bathrooms. In all incidents, administration swiftly notified law enforcement, who determined that student safety was not compromised on any campus. However, the impact of these violent messages is not negligible.
Hillsdale High School was first to discover a bomb threat written in the boys bathroom on Thursday, September 7. Students were required to remain inside classrooms that afternoon while the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office’s bomb squad searched the campus for any threat. Despite police confirmation of a safe campus, students were sent home early at 3:15 PM, and after school athletics as well as Back to School Night were cancelled for that day.
Capuchino experienced a similar incident a month later, in which a message was discovered on the bathroom wall on October 4, threatening a school shooting the next day. While the school remained opened on October 5, some students decided not to attend. San Mateo County police was present on campus during the day to aid administration in ensuring student safety.
On October 6, Mills discovered a threat against the school written in the girls bathroom. The student who found the message immediately notified administration, who promptly called the police per protocol. Due to previous false threats being made against schools, police designated the Mills case as a copycat incident inspired by the earlier instances. The school was not required to undergo a secure the campus or lockdown procedure.
Mills administration expressed appreciation to the School Resource Officers (SROs) sent by the San Mateo County’s Sheriff’s Office, who were present on campus from October 10 to 13 to ensure a safe environment and aid investigation into who wrote the threat.
Principal Duszynski announced on October 16 that the identity of the student involved with the school threat was discovered, and will receive disciplinary consequences per the California Education code.
Aside from Mills’ tighter enforcement of hall passes and attendance recording, there have not been any drastic changes made in response to the false threats, unlike San Mateo High School.
San Mateo had discovered three bomb threats within two weeks written in student bathrooms, with the most recent back to back occurrences happening on October 12 and 13. All incidents were deemed a false alarm after police had conducted a thorough search to confirm the safety of the school. However, in effort to prevent further copycat incidents, San Mateo administration established a new policy where only a set of three bathrooms are made available to the entire school. Students must sign in with a teacher before entering the bathroom, resulting in long lines to use the restroom.
The close succession of similar threats spreading across high school campuses prompted school officials to emphasize to students how causing general disruption to instructional time and threatening danger to the school is considered a misdemeanor offense by law.
Schools have been especially strained in ensuring their top priority of student safety. There have been two incidents of attempted kidnappings near San Mateo High School this September, and Burlingame has been struggling with vandalism to its student bathrooms as well. Mills itself evacuated the school twice on October 12, during fourth and fifth periods, due to falsely pulled fire alarms.
General misconduct at schools has been promptly addressed by administration, who stress that their campus remains a very safe environment.
According to Principal Duszynski, “We [the administration] take this very seriously. We are sending a strong warning out to students that if they do this, we will investigate thoroughly and work with police to move forward with disciplinary actions.”
The main portion of the student body has done well in following instructions during school evacuations, secure the campuses, and other procedures. While stricter protocol is one solution, the prevalence of student disruptions may indicate a larger issue to address.