School is out for the week, but since about Wednesday, the Santa Barbara Unified School District has been aware of threats posted on social media by “Creepy Clown” to either kidnap high school students or kill teachers. The accompanying images are as one would expect, a gross version of Bozo, but district spokesperson Barbara Keyani said she’s been on the phone with parents who are worried. “It’s put a lot of fear out there in the community,” she said, “which is totally unwarranted.” She has received emails about the clown hoax from schools across California.

Email notices sent from the district to parents on Friday specified that Santa Barbara High, Dos Pueblos High, San Marcos High, Santa Barbara Junior High, and Franklin Elementary were named targets, but today’s watch commander at the Santa Barbara Police Department, Sergeant Mitch Jan, said the schools have made no calls for police assistance. He allowed that he’d heard of a clown sighting Thursday night — here he paused for a second to swallow his amazement at the phrase — that was entirely unsubstantiated. “We haven’t received any calls for service,” he said, “about any of these clown things.”

Keyani made a teaching moment out of the scare: “This creates an opportunity to say to students,” she reminded, “if you see something, say something.” The Orwellian phrase comes out of Homeland Security’s effort to elicit cooperation from citizens to tell police of any out-of-the-ordinary incidents they might observe.


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