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UPDATE: Many SCV parents still concerned following online threats

Sheriff’s Department deploys deputies to all Hart district schools

Posted: August 18, 2014 11:29 a.m.
Updated: August 18, 2014 5:21 p.m.

Valencia High School students arrive for class Monday morning while sheriff's deputies observe their arrival following online threats. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze

Jittery parents voiced concerns about student safety Monday outside Valencia High School after a weekend punctuated by online death threats leveled at students in particular, culminating in Sunday’s announced arrest of a 15-year-old.

Investigators assured parents during a news conference Sunday that the alleged perpetrator was acting alone and that security would be tightened Monday at William S. Hart Union High School District schools. But not all were convinced.

“I was so scared of the news going to school this morning,” said Felicitas Anumba, mother of a 15-year-old Valencia High School student.

“My son was supposed to be here at 7 a.m., but I put it off until now,” she said at 8 a.m. in the school’s parking lot on Dickason Drive.

“I’m still concerned,” Anumba said. “They (threat makers) said it was ‘we’ in the posting. Who knows if he’s the only one?”

Santa Clarita Valley sheriff’s deputies were set up in the parking lot and visibly present on the steps of Valencia High School, which was singled out in the Instagram threat.

Student absentees
School officials reported a “small spike” in the number of students reported absent Monday at both Valencia High School and at Golden Valley High School, “since word got out that the student arrested was from Golden Valley, which (neither) we nor the Sheriff’s Department has officially confirmed,” said Gail Pinsker, spokeswoman for the William S. Hart Union School District.

About 40 students were reported absent from Valencia High School, she said.

“It appears that the majority of our schools have what they consider ‘normal’ attendance today, with no changes due to the threat concerns,” Pinsker said.

“Several schools did have a few concerned parents calling about this issue. However, (they) were reassured and sent their students to school.”

One of the threatening Instagram postings was addressed “to the people who live in the SCV area” and read in part: “We are aiming our guns mostly at high school students so you pieces of (expletive) better be ready because blood will be shed and families will suffer.”

The messages were posted Saturday night, and within 12 hours deputies had executed a search warrant on a Canyon Country residence and arrested a 15-year-old boy.

“A lot of parents have thanked us,” Deputy Josh Dubin said at Valencia High School on Monday morning. “We have a number of special units here. We have reserve deputies deployed at the local high schools and junior high schools. And we have high-visibility patrols at all the elementary schools.

“We want to reassure parents and, so far, the feedback has been positive,” Dubin said.

Still concerned
But Graciela Dutto, mother of a 10th-grade student at Valencia, said she was still concerned and not “100 percent” convinced the single arrest was sufficient.

“I kept her away from school for the day,” she said. “I just feel that the sheriff deputies are not giving us all the answers. I know they made an arrest and say one person was involved. What concerns me is that (the threat-maker) used the word ‘we’ in his threats.

“They should be able to tell us how they know he acted alone,” she said.

Stefanie Council, who escorted her daughter into the Valencia High office Monday morning, said: “I felt confident once I heard (deputies) had arrested someone.”

Valencia High School Principal John Costanzo referred all official comment to district spokeswoman Gail Pinsker but talked to concerned parents inside his office one-on-one Monday.

More security
One angry parent phoned The Signal to say he didn’t think there was enough law-enforcement presence at the school when he dropped his daughter off Monday.

“I was able to walk on campus with my daughter — no staff and no sheriff’s deputies. After filling me with reassurance they would have extra security, I didn’t see it,” he said. “There were some deputies at the flag pole where most of the students don’t enter.”

The suspect, who remains in custody today on felony threat charges, acted alone, had no weapons in his possession and had no real intent to carry out acts of violence as allegedly threatened, Lt. John Roberts told reporters gathered at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s station Sunday.

“Based on our investigation he acted alone,” Roberts said.

“There was no actual intent to carry out the threats,” Dubin said.
On Twitter @jamesarthurholt




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