ANTELOPE VALLEY – Palmdale schools were placed on heightened “controlled access” Tuesday morning, after an 11-year-old student reported threatening Facebook messages, sheriff’s officials said.
The Joshua Hills Elementary School student had been receiving the threats for the past month, but reported them to the Palmdale Station late Monday night, in light of Friday’s tragedy in Connecticut.
Detectives are still investigating and determining the source of the threats, but officials said the threats do not appear to be credible.
“Unfortunately, it is not unusual for individuals to make prank threats following a tragedy,” said Palmdale Station Captain Bobby Denham in a news release.
Still, Palmdale Sheriff’s Station has requested that all schools in the area remain on a “controlled access” level until Friday (Dec. 21), when schools close for the holidays. Controlled access limits unauthorized persons from entering or exiting the school grounds without proper identification.
Local parents have gone through quite a scare in the days following the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy.
“I never had worries about my child’s school until the events on Friday,” said Holly M., of Lancaster. “Now, I can’t help but question the safety of any school.”
“I worry about my son going to school because I know this kind of thing can happen anywhere at any school,” said Lisa R., mother of a 9th grade student. “But I feel safe sending him to the school he goes to, because I know they have police on campus.”
Whether students are in elementary, intermediate, or higher education, safety is a big priority, school officials said.
District officials are banding together with parents and faculty to work on the best safety plans for the schools. Westside Union School District will undertake a thorough security and safety protocol review, according to Superintendent Regina Rossall.
During this review process, Westside officials will work with local law enforcement leaders, concerned parents and other parties to determine the effectiveness of their safety procedures and make changes as necessary. According to District officials, the safety review will also determine the most effective way to prepare children for potential incidents without alarming them.
“The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department works closely with all schools, public and private, within our policing jurisdiction to enhance safety for students and staff,” stated deputy Miguel T. Ruiz of the Lancaster Station. “Each school is required to have a School Safety Plan specific to that campus that addresses most types of incidents.”
According to Lancaster Community Relations Deputy, Michael Rust, patrols have been increased around school areas, including volunteers.
“In light of the tragedy in Connecticut, we’ve stepped up our patrols in and around the schools,” Rust said. “We’re paying closer attention to the schools.”
UPDATED 12/19/12 at 7 pm: A day after Palmdale School District placed their schools on a “controlled access” status due to Facebook threats, Palmdale detectives identified the subject behind the threats as a 10-year-old Joshua Hills Elementary student, officials announced Wednesday (12/19). Detectives conducted an intense and thorough investigation, which led them to the student. After an extensive interview, it was determined that the threat was not credible and was made as a prank, officials said. The investigation revealed the subject did not possess the means to carry out the threat. Officials have not said what action, if any, they intend to take against the student.
As a precautionary measure Palmdale District schools will remain on a “Controlled Access” status until the beginning of winter break this Friday December 21, 2012.