[Update: March 9, 3:23 p.m.] While the investigation into graffiti found on March 7 continues, three new threatening graffiti messages were found, this time in the boy’s locker room at San Marcos High School. A student reported them to school administrators today. According to Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Kelly Hoover, the messages first reported on March 7 and those found today, March 9, are not related.
The school remained open, and parents were kept updated via the district’s email system.
[Original Story: March 8, 12:52 p.m.] A new threat surfaced at San Marcos High School yesterday, a month after a handful of male students made online threats against female students. Administrators and Sheriff’s deputies are scrambling to respond.
On March 7, an anonymous tip led school administrators to a threatening message graffitied in the girl’s locker room at San Marcos High School. The message threatened a shooting on campus Friday, March 9, according to Kelly Hoover, Sheriff’s Office public information officer.
School administrators contacted the Sheriff’s Office at around 11:20 a.m. Deputies responded immediately and initiated an investigation into the source and credibility of the threat, according to Hoover. The exact language of the threat has not been made public. Deputies are first looking to students for information, interviewing students who were in the area where the graffiti was first found.
After San Marcos parents were notified of the incident via email yesterday, classes remained in session today, a decision that was “made in partnership with law enforcement,” said Lauren Bianchi, spokesperson for the Santa Barbara Unified School District. “In consult with law enforcement, at this time, San Marcos High School will be open today and tomorrow,” she added.
Though both the Sheriff’s Office and school administrators are able to lockdown area schools, Hoover indicated that neither a lockdown or cancellation of classes seemed necessary thus far. “We’re investigating to identify the source. It could be a student just trying to get attention. It could be a student who’s trying to cause harm. At this point what we really need is for anyone who knows who’s responsible to contact the Sheriff’s Office.” Information can be called in at (805) 683- 2724, or an anonymous tip left at (805) 681- 4171 or at sbsheriff.org.
Sheriff’s deputies have stepped up patrols on campus today and on the 9th. The district hasn’t released today’s attendance numbers, but some parents have kept their children home. One said she was comfortable with her child attending school today but not on Friday.
San Marcos High School has been no stranger to threats of violence in the last few months. After the violence was threatened against a group of female students in January, the school district has struggled to respond to a host of parent demands. Embattled Principal Ed Behrens remains in his post at the school through year’s end, but the district has informed Behrens that at the end of this school year he will be removed from his position as San Marcos principal and offered a teaching job.
In light of that threat and the February mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, all district schools have undergone lockdown drills in preparation for a potential active shooter incident. “Especially with the climate across the country right now, we’re seeing threats like this all over the country,” Hoover said of Wednesday’s graffiti discovery. “There’s a high sensitivity around reports of threats, and there’s a serious fear of school violence.”
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article erroneously stated San Marcos Principal Ed Behrens was removed from his post over his handling of the January threats. The district has not made that assertion.