Schools chief vows crackdown on student pranks

In the wake of the recent spate of national school shootings, San Francisco’s interim school superintendent, Gwen Chan, said it’s important for the district to crack down on students who make fake threats of harm.

On Wednesday, two students at James Denman Middle School made a false report that they overheard other students in the bathroom saying they had a gun on campus and were going to shoot some students. The police were called and the school was put into a lockdown mode — where no one is allowed to leave their classrooms — for approximately 15 minutes, according to a letter sent home to parents that evening. During that time, one of the students who had made the report confessed it was a hoax, said Chan, who is recommending that the student be expelled.

“There are consequences for false reporting,” Chan said. “We take it very seriously.”

Within the last month, there have been three separate school shooting rampages in Colorado, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, prompting many school districts to review security policies.

In order to be prepared for the possibility of a real violent attack, Chan said the district couldn’t afford to be dealing with student pranks.

One week prior to Wednesday’s report, a person with a young voice called Hoover Middle School’s office and said, “I have a gun and I’m going to shoot someone on the yard,” according to district spokeswoman Gentle Blythe.

That school was also put on lockdown while police conducted a thorough search and investigation, Blythe said. No weapons were found and the person who made the call is still unknown.

Earlier this week, Chan met with the district’s high school administrators to review the already established safety protocols in the event of on-campus violence, but also discussed ways to identify troubled students and get them the support they need, she said.

“We want to be proactive,” Chan said. “I want to prevent something major happening in our schools.”

San Francisco has more than 100 security aides trained to help in the event of an emergency; there are also 30 San Francisco police officers who patrol the district’s secondary schools.

Lt. Colleen Fatooh, who oversees the police program, said the district is strongly focused on student safety, but she says it could be doing more.

“Right now, we’re in the process of doing a needs assessment,” Fatooh said. “I just think that since these [school shootings] are in everyone’s mind, it’s a good time to move forward with some of these things.”

beslinger@examiner.comBay Area NewseducationLocal

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