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School Threats Rattle Nerves Following Va. Tech Tragedy

Bogus threats and reports of gunfire reigned havoc on schools across San Diego county last week. Elementary classrooms were in lockdown, middle school students went home in droves and police fortified

School Threats Rattle Nerves Following Va. Tech Tragedy

Bogus threats and reports of gunfire reigned havoc on schools across San Diego county last week. Elementary classrooms were in lockdown, middle school students went home in droves and police fortified the grounds of least one high school. All this in response to perceived threats, and a population still recovering from the Virginia Tech shooting spree. KPBS reporter Joanne Faryon has this report on fear in the classroom.

It looks like an ordinary day here at Poway High School. Parents drop off kids. A few hugs and kisses, the typical good-byes.

But it was only last Friday, this campus was under high alert, with police officers, even police dogs, securing the grounds. Twelve hundred students stayed home because they, or their parents were afraid. Afraid because someone scrawled a note on a bathroom wall warning their school would be the target of a shooting that day.

Student:  “I think it’s so stupid people make these meaningless threats. I was really upset because not many people came to school on Friday even though there were a lot of police officers. It was probably the safest day to be at school, hopefully not all of them were afraid, but a lot of people were afraid for no reason.”

That senior decided to go to school last Friday, because she wasn’t going to be bullied. But the decision to stay home or go to school wasn’t easy for most students and parents.

Michelle Goldback has two children at Poway High school.

Goldback: “I think it’s a sad reality of the type of people that are out there and what’s scary is you don’t know. You don’t know who it can be.”

Cynthia Smith’s two boys are at Poway High.

Smith: “I tell my kids this is your world now. And we never had this when I was growing up. So we have to pay attention to all the markers. Now our dilemma is what do we do next time because we can’t miss a lot of school, and yet we just have to look at each instance as it comes. I think it’s really tragic, it’s really, really tragic.”

There were also threats made at two middle schools and another high school. At Twin Peaks Middle school, 640 students were absent the afternoon the threats were made public. That’s about half of the student body. At Rancho Bernardo High, 1,400 students stayed home -- again about half the student population.

Seven schools in Vista were in lockdown last week after someone thought they heard gunshots. Media reports describe students crying while they spent hours under their desks.

Poway school district superintendent Don Phillips says schools have to take all threats seriously. But he doesn’t want students to be afraid to come to school. He urges parents to communicate with their kids.

Phillips: “Really talk to their child about resilience about how do you cope in a world where there is uncertainty if as a society as a country we’re really living with this following 9/11.

One grandmother, who dropped her granddaughter off at school yesterday morning says what we’re afraid of may have changed over the years, but how we overcome remains the same.

Grandmother: “The minute you’re afraid, they’ve won. That’s what my mother taught me a long time ago. Because if you’re afraid, the person causing the fear in your life has won.”

Joanne Faryon, KPBS News.