Suspect in custody after Santa Cruz High School students shelter in place due to social media threat

A police vehicle in front of Santa Cruz High School on Monday.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Santa Cruz High School was briefly in “shelter-in-place” Monday morning out of an abundance of caution after someone made a threat on social media. The district described the threat as not credible and said that police have taken someone in custody.

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This story was updated at 2:35 p.m. Monday.

One person was in custody after Santa Cruz High School (SCHS) students briefly sheltered in place Monday morning because of a threat over social media that officials later confirmed was not credible.

The shelter-in-place, which lasted about an hour, was the second time in less than a week that SCHS students faced a disrupted school day because of a threat of violence that ultimately turned out to be false.

Santa Cruz High Principal Michelle Poirier said members of the school’s Associated Student Body were in a leadership class and getting ready to update the ASB’s official Instagram account Monday morning when they spotted the threat, which had been sent as a direct message.

The message had been sent out early Saturday morning. The school went into a shelter-in-place shortly after the start of the second period, around 10 a.m. Monday, Poirier said.

Student body secretary Daisy Manako said she spotted the message at around 8:45 a.m. Monday during her first class of the day, but waited until the following period — during the ASB class — to alert her teacher, Anna Miller.

“I didn’t really know what to do, so I decided I’d wait until ASB class to talk to our teacher, Anna,” said Manako, who is a junior. “I felt like it wasn’t really serious — just a hoax again.”

Neither school officials nor police confirmed the details of the Instagram message, but several students and parents shared a message by someone threatening to bring an assault-style rifle to the school and shoot people. Another message under the same username included an image of a firearm.

Santa Cruz Police said that within 90 minutes of receiving a report of the social media message, they had identified and arrested a suspect for making criminal threats — a boy who lives in the county but doesn’t attend Santa Cruz High School.

The suspect was in police custody Monday and police said they had forwarded the case to the local district attorney’s office.

The arrest is not related to Thursday’s active shooter hoax, which remains under investigation, police added. “There is currently no threat to schools in our area, and students can feel safe attending school,” spokesperson Joyce Blaschke said in a statement.

Police officers on the Santa Cruz High campus Monday.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

The latest shelter-in-place comes after the district put Santa Cruz High and Mission Hill Middle School on lockdown, and the district’s other schools under shelter-in-place orders, on Thursday amid a report of an active shooter that police and school officials ultimately said was a hoax.

Sam Rolens, spokesperson for Santa Cruz City Schools, said that unlike last week, when the police ordered a “code red” lockdown for Santa Cruz High, the police advised Monday that the high school should shelter in place — a less severe measure than lockdowns.

Unlike a shelter-in-place procedure, a lockdown or code red lockdown is implemented when local law enforcement requests that the school district do so while law enforcement is responding to an incident. Under both measures, the district restricts access to the school and no one is allowed to enter or leave and teaching continues as usual.

Santa Cruz City Schools Superintendent Kris Munro (left) and Santa Cruz High Principal Michelle Poirier speak to the media.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Poirier, the school’s principal, said that during Monday’s shelter-in-place teachers continued with their regular instruction, closing the window shades and turning off lights in the classroom. Staff escorted students to the restrooms.

She said the shelter-in-place was implemented out of an abundance of caution. The district advised all its other schools that there was no need for them to shelter in place.

Kris Munro, superintendent of Santa Cruz City Schools, said the threat created unnecessary fear and stress, coming less than a week after the previous lockdown.

“It was opportunistic and it was unfortunate that someone would do something that would create fear after the school community went through such a difficult day last Thursday,” she told reporters Monday.

Although school resumed as usual Monday, students were left frustrated by the incident.

“It’s just inconvenient,” said Greta Mitchell, the student body president and a senior at SCHS. “It makes it hard to want to go to school and to focus and learn when it gets canceled all the time. But I’d also say it’s more serious for the parents.”

Max Chun contributed to this report.

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