As of Wednesday morning, nearly 500 supporters of Billy Schulte — the San Marcos High School senior involuntarily transferred to Alta Vista High after his recent social media posts incited a safety scare on campus — have signed an online petition urging the Santa Barbara Unified School District to rescind the transfer.
Through an anonymous Instagram account on October 20, Schulte posted a handful of edgily edited videos, filmed on campus, and an image of a dove with the caption “Remember to stay tuned #rip.” While the dove image bears a striking resemblance to one associated with the Sandy Hook Angels Fund, a nonprofit for the families of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the phrase “stay tuned” was reportedly used by mass murderer Elliot Rodger in online posts leading up to his 2014 killing spree in Isla Vista.
As Schulte’s posts picked up viewers, the rumor of an imminent shooting at San Marcos spread like wildfire but was ultimately deemed baseless, according to an incident report authored by Sheriff’s Detective Jeff McDonald. “None of the videos or pictures on the Instagram account depicted or referenced any acts of violence,” McDonald reported. “There was no reference to school shootings, no depiction of weapons, and none of the images or videos were edited in way that would lead a reasonable person to believe that someone intended to harm any of the individuals depicted in the videos and pictures.” Regardless, 400 students didn’t show up for school that morning, and about 600 more showed up late or left early, according to San Marcos Principal Ed Behrens. When asked about the online petition and Schulte’s initial one-week suspension and eventual transfer, Behrens said, “Any matters regarding student discipline are between the school and family. I am unable to elaborate.”
Members of the Schulte family have met privately with district administrators, and according to school board president Ed Heron, the issue was addressed in closed session on Tuesday. Heron added that the five-member board was not part of the decision to suspend or transfer Schulte. Superintendent David Cash said, “I cannot discuss any specific student’s situation.”
Schulte’s father, John Schulte, launched the petition last week and has been updating it regularly with words of support from fellow parents and an apology from Billy that states, in part, his “full responsibility for the backlash. I made those videos specifically to have an eerie vibe, not a threatening one, and it was my mistake to leave it up to the public for interpretation.” He also said that the “stay tuned” phrase was “as literal as it can get, no hidden undertones. I just wanted people that were watching to keep on watching.”