San Jose Unified School District parents are terrified after the arrest of several students who brought guns to school and made threats on social media to shoot classmates.
At a Wednesday safety meeting at Herbert Hoover Middle School that went late into the night, distraught parents gathered to demand immediate action and transparency from the school district. They also want the district to provide more emotional support for students and teachers following school threats and firearm incidents. The school district invited Lincoln, Hoover, Willow Glen Middle and Willow Glen High school communities to attend.
Misty Pickford, parent of a Willow Glen High School student, wants the district’s communication plans updated.
“I got a message from my daughter saying, ‘It’s Code Red. It’s lockdown. Someone has a gun,’” she told San José Spotlight. “I didn’t hear anything from the school. When we finally got communication, it just said there’s an incident and it has been resolved. A lot of parents were rushing to the school, which could’ve made the situation worse, because they didn’t feel they were getting enough information.”
Last week, police arrested a Willow Glen High School student who walked onto campus armed with a loaded ghost gun and knife. On April 21, a Hoover middle school student was caught carrying a loaded firearm and taken into police custody. On May 14, an Abraham Lincoln High School student made a threat on social media to bring an assault rifle to school and shoot classmates. San Jose Police Department Sgt. Jorge Garibay confirmed the student was arrested on May 15.
Last October, a S.W.A.T. team was called to Lincoln High School after receiving a call that multiple students were shot. After the school went into lockdown and was cleared, the call was found to be a hoax.
National Gun Violence Awareness Day is June 2, a day set aside to raise awareness and promote positive change. In July 2022, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill which creates new obligations for schools regarding gun safety. The law is designed to prevent firearm-related incidents, including incidents that threaten schools. The law took effect Jan. 1.
At the meeting, SJUSD Superintendent Nancy Albarran, assistant superintendents, police officers and a representative from the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office explained procedures and answered parent questions.
“Families are nervous,” said parent Suzy Brooks, who has children at Hoover and Lincoln. “Families expect communication that comes in a timely manner, especially in the age of social media and cell phones.”
Brooks said the district has to step up its mental health care and provide wellness centers that could spot students in need of help.
“Maybe we wouldn’t even get to these points,” she told San José Spotlight, “because kids would (reach out) for help at those places before they reached out for help on social media with threats or bringing weapons to schools.”
Parents said they don’t want teachers to return to class as if it’s business as usual after an incident. They want the situation addressed and to give students time to process what happened. They also want principals to speak with students the next day, discuss what they went through and what the school is doing to keep them safe.
Albarran acknowledged San Jose Unified School District needs to communicate better, and provide greater clarity with a sense of urgency.
“We are facing situations now around physical safety that we have not seen,” she said. “The safety and security of our students and staff is most important, and we’re going to continue to work tirelessly to make sure we make significant improvements and get this right. We’re going to work to do better.”
Parent Trudy McKanna, who has children at Lincoln and Willow Glen high schools, said in the past week both her children “were afraid for their lives.” She said Lincoln parents were told there was a threat to the school last Sunday night, but it was unclear if it was valid. Monday night she learned the student who made the threat was at school that day. McKanna said the district failed parents and students and needs to own up, learn from it and take action.
Carrie, a parent who did not give her last name, said she didn’t want to hear about someone with a gun on campus from the news or social media before she received notification from the school.
“We are asking for transparency,” she said. “The day before, we were told there was a suspicious person on Willow Glen Middle School’s campus, but everything is okay. My son told me it was a gun scare and he was running as fast as he could. He never ran as fast in his life. And the next day, this happens. You guys really have to be more transparent about everything that’s happening. Don’t just tell us everything is okay. Not only for us to feel safe, but for our kids to feel safe.”
The next San Jose Unified School District board meeting is at 6 p.m. today at the district office at 855 Lenzen Ave. in San Jose.
Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]
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