Ceres Police treated a threat on social media of a possible Friday shooting at Ceres High School as serious and took no chances at the other campuses with an increased presence of officers. But Ceres Unified School District officials said the threat was not credible.
Ceres Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Jay Simmonds explained that the origins of the perceived threat originated when students pulled a fire alarm on campus and there was an exchange in one of the classrooms.
“There was a sub (teacher) in one of the classes that during the second alarm the kids were laughing and not paying attention and not taking it seriously,” said Simmonds. The substitute teacher than admonished the class to take alarms seriously because “it could be an active shooter like Parkland. And that statement translated into there was going to be a real shooting at Ceres High School.”
He said an investigation traced the flap back to the substitute teacher’s comment being misinterpreted.
“That’s all it was.”
The teacher was admonished to be mindful of how comments might be interpreted in the classroom, Simmonds said.
Simmonds said the students who knew the threat wasn’t real “used it as an excuse to stay home today” by spreading a message on Snapchat, a popular cell phone app. Authorities became aware of the Snapchat media posting at approximately 2 p.m. Thursday bearing ominous suggestions that there would be a Friday shooting on campus. The posting included a photo of high capacity magazines and a rifle with the words, “CHS be ready!!!!!!” One of the screenshots included the words, “This s--- real!!!!!!! guys.”
CUSD officials notified parents of the incident by robocall Thursday evening to announce that the school is aware of the threat and that school would not be cancelled.
Ceres Police Sgt. Greg Yotsuya said his department always takes every threat seriously and took measures “to ensure the safety of all of our students.”
Police were scrambling to identify the source of the perceived Snapchat postings, which consisted of a series of screenshots on cell phones.
“What’s made it difficult is that it’s a screenshot of a screenshot,” said Yotsuya.
Yotsuya said repeated fire alarms were activated by students on campus Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Sgt. Yotsuya said there are suspicions that the posting may have been timed in an effort to see school canceled for a four-day weekend. Monday is a school holiday because of Veteran’s Day.
“In all of my research of school shootings there was never a threat announced ahead of time on social media,” added Sgt. Yotsuya.
The last major scare at Ceres High School occurred on April 6, 2018 when a social media posting appeared to suggest CHS would be the target of a shooting. It turned out that the imminent threat of a CHS shooting originated from a screenshot based on a threat made at Clovis High School in Clovis, N.M. and was repeated locally.