A dual swing automatic gate is being installed on Nash Road near San Benito High School on July 23 as part of several repair and renovation projects throughout the campus. Photo: Juan Reyes

A May 18 lockdown of Hollister High School was triggered by a glitch in the school’s alarm system that sent out a false alert of a campus emergency, according to law enforcement and school officials. 

Police responded to the live report of a potential emergency at Hollister High about 12:58pm, and quickly determined that there was no shooter or shooting, and no threat to students, faculty or the community, according to Hollister Police. The campus was locked down for several minutes due to the report.

Following the incident, Hollister High School administrators sent two letters, in both English and Spanish, to parents and the public explaining the brief emergency and thanking the police and others who assisted in the response. The false report originated from “a programming error in the bell schedule system resulted in a lockdown message being sent through the campus public address system,” says a May 18 letter from Hollister High faculty. 

Specifically, the erroneously broadcast recorded message stated, “Attention: this is a lockdown emergency. Please take refuge immediately and follow lockdown procedures. This is not a drill.” The message played over the school’s public address system twice, according to Hollister High School staff. 

As soon as teachers and staff heard the public address message, they “immediately followed the appropriate protocols as local law enforcement personnel arrived on campus.”

Hollister High’s school resource officer was on campus when the lockdown occurred, and immediately requested backup from Hollister PD, says the letter from the school. The San Benito County Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney’s Office and Hollister Fire Department also responded to the alarm. 

“Hollister High School administrators, staff and faculty immediately implemented the appropriate safety protocols, given the circumstances,” says the May 18 letter. “In a situation like this, the priority for all staff members is to ensure the safety of students on campus. Once law enforcement ensured that the campus was secure, students were safe, and internal safety protocols were implemented, external communication about the situation was provided to the greater community.” 

School instruction was interrupted throughout the remainder of the afternoon May 18, following the emergency alert and response, according to school staff. Classes resumed as normal on May 19, and all school activities continued as scheduled, the letter continues. 

A follow-up letter to parents on May 19, from Hollister High Principal Adrian Ramirez and San Benito High School District Superintendent Dr. Shawn Tennenbaum re-emphasized the campus’ focus on student safety and offered more thanks to those who responded—including nearby Good Samaritans who offered their property as safety from the reported threat.

“At the same time, many of our community neighbors acted swiftly and selflessly in opening their homes and businesses for individuals seeking refuge during this stressful time,” says the May 19 letter. 

The letter from Ramirez and Tennenbaum continues, “Please know that we will take this opportunity to identify what aspects of the lockdown event can be improved upon. It is important to note the lockdown event was triggered by a programming error in our public address system; there was no active shooter or intruder on campus, and any reports of gunshots are inaccurate.”

No immediate harm or injuries were reported as a result of the May 18 incident, but the school is offering counseling services and other resources for students in the aftermath of the brief emergency. 

Those resources include: 

–  Youth Crisis Line (24/7): 1.800.843.5200 

– Crisis Support Services (24/7): 1.800.309.2131 

– Parental Stress (24/7): 510.893.5444 

– California HOPE Support with Coping skills: 833.317.HOPE (4673) 

– TEXT: “HOME” to 741741 (to text with crisis counselor) 

– TEXT: “Start” to 678678 (to LGBTQ Crisis Support) 

– CALL: Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1.800.273.TALK (8255)

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Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.


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