Police phone lines have been inundated with tips in the days following the arrest of three Mountain View High students suspected of making threatening social media posts against the school.
“Detectives are getting calls all day from people with possible information,” said Katie Nelson, Mountain View Police Department spokes- woman.
Officers arrested the three students – all male upperclassmen – Oct. 10 and charged them with making threats and conspiracy to commit a crime, both felonies. Because the suspects are under 18, they were booked into juvenile detention and officials are withholding their names.
The posts in question were made via Snapchat, a multimedia-messaging app in which content is displayed for a limited, user-specified amount of time before it disappears.
Mountain View High senior Kathryn Kemp, 17, first learned about the messages through friends who discussed seeing them the weekend prior to the arrests. She said the posts included references to the date “10/10,” which was especially concerning because the school had an earthquake drill scheduled that day, meaning a large number of students would assemble at once on the football field.
A student or the parent of a student ultimately alerted the Mountain View Police Department, and detectives arrested two of the teens at their homes and the third as he arrived at school, said David Grissom, the school’s principal.
A search of the suspects’ homes did not reveal anything inappropriate, detectives reported.
There have been claims and rumors the students posted the Snapchat content in jest, but officials don’t consider that a justifiable defense.
“Whether or not these were jokes, it wasn’t funny,” Nelson said. “We’re taking it very seriously.”
Grissom noted the school’s code of conduct, which all students sign within a week of starting the school year.
“I feel confident our students know what the school rules are and when things are appropriate and not appropriate,” Grissom said.
Mountain View High administrators have adopted a multipronged approach to addressing student and parent concerns following news of the arrests, Grissom said. Parents received an email notification and administrators posted a bulletin to the school website Oct. 10. School staff members met the next day, and an email Grissom sent to students and parents Oct. 12 offered counseling, therapy and discussion for anyone requesting it. A police-produced school assembly about internet safety may be forthcoming.
With Grissom’s permission, teachers have the discretion to modify lesson plans to include group discussion on the incident, and Kemp said students seem to appreciate how transparent the faculty has been.
“I think teachers are making an effort to make sure we feel safe,” she said.
The criminal justice system will dictate whether the suspects are released into parental custody and ultimately serve jail or prison time. Their future at Mountain View High, however, will be determined by a due process involving interviews district staff conduct with them and their parents, Grissom said.
The principal said he is troubled by the number of students who allegedly saw the Snapchat posts and did not report them – a concern echoed in the Oct. 12 email he sent to the student body.
“The world is increasingly complex, and how we watch out for each other can make all the difference in the world,” Grissom wrote. “It’s not snitching if it’s about helping protect violence from happening. We have a very special sense of community at our school. It’s important that we all protect it. Thank you for doing your part.”