Extra security after threat against Bay Area school

August 20, 2010 1:01:37 PM PDT
Santa Clara police and parents at an elementary school are taking a bomb threat very seriously -- even though they think it's just a sick, vicious attempt to frighten children.

Nearly half the student body of Briarwood Elementary School stayed home today because of a graffiti threat that said an explosive would be set off on campus today.

This is an open as a normal, full school day. Yet there's an obvious difference with police patrol cars parked out front. It's a day of high alert, but hopefully an uneventful one.

Santa Clara police say a threat was scrawled out in an amateurish-style on a classroom door at Briarwood Elementary.

"This is the world we live in, and so we want to take it very seriously, safety is number-one," said Tabitha Kappeler-Hurley of Santa Clara Unified School District.

The Santa Clara Unified School District says the graffiti was discovered there more than two weeks ago. And hoax or not, police have taken it seriously, investigating and preparing for this day ever since.

"Earlier this morning, we had one of our canines that's trained to detect explosives sweep the school," said Santa Clara Police Lt. Phil Cooke.

The police canine didn't pick up any explosive materials, but out of an abundance of caution, there are extra officers in uniform and some undercover, monitoring the residential area around the 12-acre Townsend Avenue campus.

"We can understand some of the anxiety," said Cooke.

And the anxiety showed in the attendance numbers -- nearly half of the students didn't come to school today -- that's about 200 of the 421 students. The district says it's not surprised that parents have been asking.

"Is it ok if I have my child home? Of course, they just need to call in like a regular excused absence, and it will be handled that way," said Kappeler-Hurley.

On Monday, the first day of school, the district superintendent sent parents a letter advising them of the threat and the extra security precautions Briarwood is taking. Even if this turns out to, hopefully, be a prank, police and school officials felt obligated to act, based on the history of so many past incidents of school violence nationwide.

"Sadly, I mean we both know that there have been instances though out the nation where unfortunately real tragedies have occurred, and we don't want that to happen here," said Kappeler-Hurley.

When referring to violence in schools nationwide and how the reaction toward handling any such threats has evolved over time. Police and school officials say top-of-mind are the fatal school shootings at Columbine in Colorado more than 10 years ago, as well as at Virginia Tech University in 2007.

The hope is that at Briarwood it will end as just another normal school day.


Load Comments