Threat to Harper Turns Out to Be a Hoax

On Friday, DJUSD sent out a notice to parents of Harper Junior High students that there was a threat received via the STOPit app.  The threat claimed that there would be a school shooting at Harper Junior High School on Monday, March 5, 2018.  At that time, they indicated that they would make a decision by 5 pm on Saturday as to whether Harper would be closed on Monday.

On Saturday just before 5 pm, the school sent out a second announcement that the school would be closed on Monday.  However, a day later the school announced that the threat was a hoax and the school would open on Monday as per the normal schedule.

According to a media release, “Davis Police officers, working with the Davis Joint Unified School District, were able to identify the source of the threat made against Harper Jr. High on Friday, a male student in his early teens.  Further investigation revealed the threat was a prank.”

The district stated, “Any legal or school disciplinary measures related to this matter are being handled by the appropriate entity.”

In a separate release, the Davis Police announced that “no arrests have been made at this time.”

The Davis Police Department will continue to work with the school district on this matter to determine appropriate consequences.

Davis Police Lt. Paul Doroshov told the Vanguard that it was a gun threat, that “the word ‘gun’ per se was not used, but the threat was to shoot.”

He added, “It was a third person type threat where the person wrote that someone else was going to come to school and shoot.”  The lieutenant confirmed, “No one has been arrested.”

In a statement from Superintendent John Bowes, “In light of the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida and other recent tragedies, effective partnerships with the Davis Police Department are more important than ever.”

He further stated that at this point, all schools in the district will be open on Monday.  “There are no known threats to any campuses.”  He added, “We understand that events like this can cause fear and stress. If you have questions or need support for your student, please contact your child’s principal or counselor.”

The threat comes a matter of days after the school board held a discussion on school safety improvements on Thursday night.

The school board in a motion made by Madhavi Sunder, seconded by Barbara Archer, directed staff to create a community task force charged with studying school safety practices as well as upgrading signage on campus that identifies school office and campus buildings, as well as perimeter areas that are shared by a school and a city park.

Staff was also directed to create a school safety component in the new facilities master plan that the district is developing, as well as perform a cost analysis of adding a second school resource officer from the Davis Police Department.

The motion came after numerous parents identified the issue of school safety as a matter of grave concern to parents who are increasingly worried about threats to schools, in light of recent events not only at Parkland in Florida, but also in the school district itself.

A number of safety improvements are already underway including strategic fencing, school signage, door blocks, active shooter training, active shooter drills, and intrusion detections through the use of the Raptor software.

Other proposed recommendations are less certain, including perimeter safety fencing, door locking protocols, defined site property lines, relocation of bike paths that currently pass through campuses, and trespassing notification systems, among other things.

There are barriers to some of these upgrades,  Staff warned that DJUSD “does not qualify for safety grants due to low City crime rate and few incidents of school violence.”

Fencing would have impacts on shared use with city parks.  And such upgrades as fencing, signage, and keycard entries are expensive.

Director of Facilities David Burke warned that “retrofitting a school built in the 1950s with modern safety measures is expensive.”  Rather, he suggested it would be easier to construct new classroom buildings than to retrofit aging classrooms, many of which are nearly 70 years old at this point.

Another one of the parents speaking during public comment indicated that there is a level of concern, even panic, among parents who are concerned about the lack of current school safety measures.  Some urged for more police and school resources officers on campus, more proper access control and stronger enforcement of visitor check-ins and screenings on campus.

Some parents noted that classroom doors are typically unlocked during the school day, and voiced surprise that security staff are onsite only at junior high and high school campuses, and not at elementary schools.

However, another parent warned that “there’s a real downside to making our schools into fortresses.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Keith O

    I hope they don’t just sweep this under the rug.  These types of threats even though they turn out to be a hoax need to be dealt with sternly.

    1. David Greenwald

      Part of the problem (I am guessing only based on my text exchanges with Doroshov) that they will have to sort here is whether the person they caught was the one doing the hoax or whether he was passing on legitimate information that turned out to be a hoax.

      1. Jim Wallis

        When considering punishment, we do need to keep in mind that these are children.

        My understanding is that implementation of the STOPit anti-bullying application elicited some skepticism among the students, as well as speculation about its potential for misuse.  Apparently the temptation to test the theory was a little too much for one.

        In any case, it is interesting that an application that was represented as keeping submissions anonymous was so easily defeated.  Not exactly the best way to get buy-in from prospective users.


        1. David Greenwald

          A lot of good points raised here – we have had a number of threats and also racist posts using these apps, I wonder if their use shouldn’t be reevaluated.

  2. Ken A

    When I was a kid my parents never locked the doors to our home unless we we were going out of town and only locked the car if we were parking in SF.

    Today I always lock my home (and set the alarm) and lock my car (and even my ~$3,000 25 year old car has an alarm).

    We don’t live in a “fortress” but it is amazing how much safer we are just doing one thing “locking a door”.

    It is a lot harder to kill someone when they are behind a locked door and you can’t see them (as the SF Cops found out last week):

    1. David Greenwald

      I lock my door too, always have, and my parents always did at least at night. But I know quite a few people who have never locked their door and never had a break in. It does make me wonder – are you really safer with the door locked? If someone wants to get into your place, do they simply check the door and leave if it’s locked? I’m always skeptical of claims without empirical evidence to back it up.

      1. Keith O

        You are safer with your door locked.  Can someone still break in, yes.  But there are some crooks that will check to see if your door is locked and move on if it is.  I don’t think we need any empirical evidence to back that up, it’s common sense.  It’s the same for cars, if you leave your car doors unlocked there’s much more of a chance that you will get things stolen.

        1. David Greenwald

          I had a friend in a rough neighborhood used to leave his car door unlocked so when they broke in to steal something (which he kept everything of value out), they didn’t damage the car breaking in.

        2. Keith O

          I used to leave for work early in the morning, 4 am.  A couple of times I actually witnessed guys checking the door handles for unlocked cars as they walked down the street.  Are you really going to argue against that locking your doors isn’t more safe than not locking them?

      1. Howard P

        Mine has that kind of bark, and really aggressive… she wants everyone to be her BFF, will jump up, try to kiss, and try to get an intruder to play ball with her… a 45 lb-er…

  3. David Greenwald

    BTW, my biggest concern in this proposal is the prospect of adding an SRO.  A lot of research suggests that adding police to schools serves to criminalize behavior that otherwise would be treated in the school disciplinary process.

    1. Howard P

      Worse yet, is some of the proposals that have floated in FL and elsewhere to have armed teachers… “school marshals”… volunteers, with require training, but guns in the classroom, in any case… stuff can happen…

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