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Sheriff, schools respond to threats on social media

SheriffCity

Grant Phillips, Ojai Valley News reporter

The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office Special Crimes / Intelligence Unit is working in conjunction with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and area school resource officers to investigate the national trend of unsubstantiated threats of mass school violence on Friday, Dec. 17. 

The threats have been circulating on social media platforms, including Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat, leading to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, the Ventura County Office of Education and multiple area school districts to send press releases and notices to families.

VCOE reported Dec. 15 that it was aware of the rumors circulating on social media. According to a VCOE press release: “While these threats are unsubstantiated and do not mention Ventura County schools specifically, some local schools may be taking extra safety measures around their campuses on Dec. 17. 

“Many also have counselors available for students who would like to speak to someone. Ensuring that schools are safe places for students and staff to learn and grow will remain the top priority.”

VCOE recommends key points for families to make with their children:

— Schools take every threat seriously, and schools are safe places.

— It is essential that students do not re-post items like this as it creates a cycle of fear and complicates the investigation.

— Students may face possible suspension and/or expulsion for making threats, along with potential legal consequences.

“Students who see or hear anything concerning during school hours should report it to a school staff member,” the press release continued. “Anyone who obtains information after hours should notify local law enforcement.”

On Dec. 10, a threat was made to Oxnard High School that was ultimately revealed to be “not credible” after the student responsible was tracked down and said there was never any danger for either students or staff. The threat made its rounds on social media, which prompted one Nordhoff High School student to alert campus faculty. 

OUSD Superintendent Tiffany Morse said that, with help from the Ojai Police Department, the school district was able to determine the threat “was not credible and was instead a student reacting to a threat at Oxnard High School.”

In her written message last week to OUSD families, she continued: “As we take each of these situations seriously, we remain vigilant in responding to any possible threat and are in close contact with law enforcement.” 

Following the Oxnard High School incident, three students were arrested in connection to their social media posts. 

On Dec. 12, another threat was made by a Balboa Middle School student, which resulted in that student's arrest by Ventura Police. 

The threats were reported as a result of a “See Something, Say Something” campaign. 

The “See Something, Say Something” campaign was introduced at the Nordhoff campus in February 2019 as an opportunity for students, staff and community to engage in the ongoing safety of their schools. 

The program lists a variety of signs to watch out for that include expressed or implied threats, surveillance, theft, diversion and weapons collection among other factors that can all be viewed at:
https://bit.ly/3e0Mtos

“We are asking parents and families to please check on your students’ social media accounts,” read Morse’s statement. 

Anonymous tips can be submitted via the WeTip hotline, which are conveyed to school district officials, police, fire, and sheriff’s agencies. The WeTip hotline can be reached at 800-782-7463. 

“Staff and student safety is our highest priority,” wrote Morse. “We know that each one of us has a role in keeping our schools safe and healthy.”

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