Social media posts viewed as potential threats prompted quick action by authorities and led some parents to pull students from Santa Maria High School on Friday.
Superintendent Mark Richardson from the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District said officials learned early Friday morning about a social media post that depicted a student with a handgun and the caption “F–K it!”
Santa Maria police “located the individual responsible for the posting and is dealing the perpetrator accordingly,” Richardson said.
“The weapon in question was identified as a replica BB gun pistol,” Richardson added. “Regardless, the district and law enforcement take all of these matters seriously and will take appropriate legal and disciplinary action.
Detectives investigated the incident and determined there was no threat to Santa Maria High and that no criminal violations occurred, police Lt. Russ Mengel said.
“It’s walking the line and that’s what’s so difficult about these,” Mengel said.
The Friday incident was the first of two involving social media threats and Santa Maria High School students.
A day earlier, a different post by a ninth-grader led police to contact that student. A school representative notified the school resource officer at approximately 11:30 a.m. Thursday about a potentially concerning comment by a student on Snapchat.
“While the comments are in extremely bad taste, it’s walking the border there. It wasn’t a clear-cut criminal statute violation,” Mengel said, adding detectives met with the parents and searched the boy’s residence as a precaution late Thursday night.
“We were looking his means and ability or if he had done anything more other than make some stupid comments on Snapchat,” Mengel said. “While the comments were horrific, there wasn’t a criminal statute violation to arrest him for at that time.”
The case has been referred to the District’s Attorney’s Office for review, to determine whether the incident will lead to criminal charges.
A line of concerned parents could be seen at the campus Friday pulling students from school amid the additional police presence as officers and school officials said no credible threat remained.
Approximately 300 students were yanked from the classes, district officials said Friday afternoon. The campus has more than 2,500 students.
On Friday morning, a parent a warning to Santa Maria High parents about the incident.
“I wouldn’t send your kids to school today. A screenshot is going from Snapchat of a kid from SM high with a handgun… and rumored to be going down. (SMPD has been informed) but I want to make it know. My kids will be home not taking any chances,” the parent wrote.
Both students involved with these posts have been referred to school officials for possible suspension or expulsion, Mengel said.
There were two other recent incidents of school-related threats in Santa Barbara County, including an alleged bomb threat by a Vandenberg Middle School student Thursday and posts by San Marcos High School male students that allegedly included a list of female students and vulgar descriptions of them, and a threatening video in which a male student appeared with an antique musket.
Authorities investigated both cases and Santa Barbara Unified School District held a public meeting last week to discuss the San Marcos High School posts.
The Sheriff’s Department said the male students involved with the San Marcos posts did not own or have access to functioning firearms or dangerous devices.