Santa Barbara High School stepped up its security measures Friday afternoon and prepared more than 500 of its students for what school officials believe is going to be a tense weekend. Athletic students were instructed to attend a mandatory sixth period assembly, when most of them would normally be at their sports practice. Athletic director Nan Verkaik and guidance counselor Carlos Williams addressed students on the need to come together as a school in the wake of the death of Luis Angel Linares, who was fatally stabbed behind Saks Fifth Avenue on State Street Wednesday afternoon.
Linares was a Santa Barbara High student until shortly after the start of the second semester when he was expelled for fighting and transferred to El Puente High School. Many of the students who knew him appeared emotionally distraught on Thursday and were sent to the counseling office. Other students walked to and from classes with newspapers in their hands, discussing the latest information about the stabbing with their friends. The buzz around campus was increasingly centered on rumors about the death on Thursday and Friday.
Among the rumors circulating was that two gatherings were planned: one for the Taco Bell on Milpas Street, not far from the SBHS campus, and another at Ortega Park, adjacent to Santa Barbara Junior High, where one of the suspects attends school. Neither of the rumored incidents materialized.
Students were instructed to wear SBHS shirts, pants, sweatshirts, or any other attire that would identify them as Dons as they traveled downtown this weekend. Williams then took the microphone and encouraged all students to anonymously report any trouble they might have regarding gang activity to the school’s hotline. Verkaik assured the students in attendance that they were like family to the school’s personnel, and reinforced the request that they conduct their behavior outside the school as they would on school grounds.
All students watched a message on closed circuit television in their classrooms today given by Principal Paul Turnbull (pictured), in which he gave basic facts about Wednesday’s stabbing death to the student body. In a memo released to staff members Thursday morning, Turnbull did not expect any incidents of gang violence on campus, but said security measures would be increased.
During the noontime lunch session, security guards and assistant principals armed with walkie-talkies monitored the perimeters around the Santa Barbara campus. The school recently reinstated its tardy sweeps, which require students walking around campus during class without a hall pass to be escorted to the cafeteria to have their name and/or ID number entered into the electronic attendance system.
As the assembly wore on, campus security guards locked the front gates to the school on the Anapamu Street side. Cars coming into campus from that side were redirected around the corner to the Canon Perdido entrance. Some confused and disgruntled parents were let inside to pick up their students.
Earlier this year, numerous gates surrounding the school’s football stadium were permanently locked because of reports that students were being harassed by individuals wandering onto campus. The remaining gates around the campus have been locked as of today. Similar security measures are voluntarily being undertaken at other Santa Barbara junior high and high schools.
Jan Zettel, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education for Santa Barbara School Districts, spent today walking around junior high and high school campuses. “We’re on a state of high alert,” said Zettel. “We’re following up on every rumor.”
Zettel added that all school calendars are going under revision to reduce the amount of short or “minimum” days. Santa Barbara High announced yesterday that its planned minimum day scheduled for June 14 has been canceled for the time being.
The school currently has a new proposed bell schedule that would reduce the amount of minimum days, and instead have some days when classes would start after 9 a.m. instead of 8 a.m., as it does on regular days. The late start days would be used to hold staff meetings. Teachers are scheduled to vote on the new bell schedule next week.