School closes shooting threat investigation

On+Sept.+16+and+19%2C+three+shooting+threats+were+discovered+in+the+cafeteria+and+building+6+bathrooms.+Principal+Robert+Frasca+encourages+students+to+speak+up+whenever+they+feel+unsafe+on+campus.

photo by Josephine Lim

On Sept. 16 and 19, three shooting threats were discovered in the cafeteria and building 6 bathrooms. Principal Robert Frasca encourages students to speak up whenever they feel unsafe on campus.

“SHOOT UP THIS B—. SEPT. 20.”

When junior Ava West found this message in the cafeteria bathroom on Sept. 16, her heart dropped. What she had only seen on the news was now staring her in the face.

“I felt panicked to the point where I left school because of it,” West said. “All I thought was, ‘Why would someone do this?’”

But West was not the only student to find a shooting threat. Senior Rachelle English found one in the building 6 bathroom on the same day, and one more was discovered in the cafeteria on Sept. 19. The investigation was completed last week, and the case is now closed, according to principal Robert Frasca. All three threats were found to be connected, and the identity of the student who wrote the messages will not be revealed. 

As with any threat, administration’s first step was to consult law enforcement and take pictures of what was found to be used as evidence. After that, they reviewed video footage of students entering and exiting the bathrooms and interviewed anyone they saw, asking them if they noticed the threat and if they had any information about who might have written it. This allowed administration to establish a rough timeline of events and narrow down suspects, according to Frasca.

Just hours after the threats were first discovered, they were determined to be non-credible, and Frasca sent an email out to parents to inform them that classes would proceed as normal and that additional law enforcement would be placed on campus. 

“99.9% of the time it’s somebody making a hoax,” Frasca said. “But I’m not going to take the chance that we will be that 0.1%. We’re going to take it seriously.”

This is not the first time Frasca has dealt with shooting threats in his career—situations that happen more than people realize. On Sept. 11, a threat was posted against Lyman on social media, and it was determined to be non-credible (clickorlando.com). A similar situation arose at Lake Minneola High School on Sept. 22 after someone airdropped a threat to multiple students in the classroom (Fox 35 News). The common denominator is that none of these threats are credible, and Frasca feels that they are often a cry for help.

“I think that for some students who are struggling with things, they know they can get attention,” Frasca said. “Overwhelmingly, there’s no intention to action—no intention to carry out the threat.”

If a student is found to be threatening a school shooting, the disciplinary consequences go far past lunch detentions, regardless of their true intent. Frasca explained that each situation is different, but expulsion and arrest are possibilities in any case. 

“You have to look at each circumstance as it’s presented to you,” Frasca said. “But there are some very significant consequences that can be applied.”

As shooting concerns continue to grow across the country, school safety initiatives constantly get updated. At a September county meeting, SCPS principals were told about safety campaigns that will encourage students to follow security procedures, which could start within the next few months. 

“We were talking about [safety campaigns] before all this even happened,” Frasca said. “We want to keep our campus safe without causing a panic.”

No matter what policies schools have in place, the expectation is that students take safety seriously and actively participate in the process. According to Frasca, the biggest help throughout the investigation was students coming forward with information. He encourages students to speak up if they see or hear of anything suspicious, as it is the best way to keep campus safe.

“Any piece of information a student has relating to campus safety, they need to say something,” Frasca said. “See something, say something. I think that’s really important.”

734 Views