Recent arrests prompt focus on threats

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Brown, the school resource officer, talked with the faculty about safety procedures.

Local high schools have zero tolerance for violent language
Four separate instances of people arrested at local schools for
threatening language in the past month show that school
administrators are taking a zero tolerance view on threats of
violence. Even jokes about being

mad enough to kill someone

aren’t being taken lightly.
Local high schools have zero tolerance for violent language

Four separate instances of people arrested at local schools for threatening language in the past month show that school administrators are taking a zero tolerance view on threats of violence. Even jokes about being “mad enough to kill someone” aren’t being taken lightly.

This is an age of zero tolerance and school administrators want it perfectly clear that every violent threat has to be perceived as real.

“It’s at the point where anything that sounds threatening from ‘nice day for a shooting’ to ‘I’m gonna make this place a Columbine’ will get a person arrested,” said Deputy Rich Brown, the school resource officer for San Benito County. “It’s at the stage now where skyjacking was a few years ago, where there is absolutely no tolerance for any type of threats. Even jokes are taken seriously. The ramifications just cannot be ignored.”

A lot of incidents can be avoided by simply having parents educate their kids on what not to say, Brown said.

Local high schools have zero tolerance for violent language

“If you look at the total situation as a parent of a child at a school, ask yourself ‘How would I want my child to react?'” he said.

Each school in San Benito County has emergency preparation protocols that they drill on for fires, earthquakes and other disasters, including school shootings.

At San Benito High School, the school has two fire drills and one crisis drill per year. The crisis drill can be anything from a shooter on campus to a gas explosion. The drills are in place, and staff at the high school are constantly being inundated with new techniques to better prepare themselves.

Earlier this week, Brown went over safety techniques for how to secure a classroom against a shooting incident with teachers. During his presentation, he described in detail how to barricade a classroom against impending aggressors.

In addition to Brown, the red-jacketed campus supervisors are San Benito High School’s first line of defense against potential threats. They serve as the eyes and ears on the ground. They are the first point of contact a person has when they come onto the campus.

“They are the invaluable eyes on the street,” Assistant Principal Duane Morgan said.

The campus supervisors report anything they witness to their supervisor and she makes the distinction on how to proceed, Brown said. This helps with identifying potential aggressors, Brown said.

There are no cameras on the high school campus yet, but talks are on going about installing a one-wire system that would include security cameras as well as a PA system.

“We’re working on trying to get up to speed technologically,” Morgan said. “I think the kids feel safe from the outside environment, though we do always hear back about some sense of bullying. But nothing in terms of disaster.”

The focus on safety came when earlier this month a student was arrested at Anzar High School after word got out that a student had verbally threatened violence against the school.

Anzar, though smaller than San Benito High School has the same emergency preparation protocols in place to protect against natural and man-made disasters, according to Principal Charlene McKowen.

“We’re also fortunate because we’re a small campus,” McKowen said. “So car-wise we only have two gates on and off campus. If we felt threatened, we could easily shut one of those gates.”

Students, for their part, have responded reasonably well to the zero-tolerance atmosphere. San Benito High Guidance Counselor Jim Caffiero works with students on a regular basis and he said that 90 percent of the students he sees feel safe on campus and understand there are consequences for making inappropriate threats.

The police and District Attorney’s office are taking a stance of zero tolerance against violent threats as well. Chief of Police Jeff Miller instructs his officers to arrest potential threats when they are directed to them and the DA’s office is prosecuting one of the cases that was brought to them earlier this month.

“There are far too many instances of school violence and we’d be remiss if we ignored it,” Miller said. “Even if it’s in jest, it’s not appropriate. Especially in the schools.”

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