Students have returned to Santa Monica High School today after an online threat sparked concern and confusion on Monday.
The Samohi incident was part of a cluster of threats in the Los Angeles area that included St. Monica’s, Palisades, Hamilton, Fairfax and other schools in the area.
Locally, a Samohi student made threats against the school on a private Snapchat account. Those threats prompted officials to meet the student at the school gates Monday, prevent him from entering campus and search his home. Nothing criminal was found during the search and officials said the student didn’t pose a threat. However, he remains suspended while the district pursues disciplinary action.
Some parents criticized the decision to open school at all Monday and to keep it open following the incident. However, officials said there was no danger and therefore, no reason to cancel class.
“We understand that students and parents were fearful today and we can not emphasize enough how student and staff health and safety are our top priorities,” said Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati on Monday night. “We were confident that school was safe today or we would not have kept school open.”
Some students voluntarily left campus Monday and parents said they are unhappy with the way student concerns about the incident are being handled.
“I definitely was freaked out, because there was no other information other than just the stuff that I’d seen (on social media), and even though I didn’t know the guy, it’s creepy,” said Graham Slater, a sophomore at Samohi who left campus at his parents’ behest.
Mandana Yamin, a mother of a sophomore at Samohi chose to pick-up her son and was displeased that parents were not notified of the threat sooner.
“He told me this morning he was like ‘mom my friend called me and told me to be careful at school today, because he said there’s somebody that is going to come to school with a gun’ … and then he went to school and then I got nothing from the school, which is really annoying,” said Yamin.
Yamin picked her son up at around 10:30 a.m. and was rattled by the incident.
“I find this type of incident really disturbing… really not something I would expect in Santa Monica at all. I expect this in states where they have open carry laws,” said Yamin.
Parent Dorian Beach also said parents should have been notified earlier in the process.
“The way this was handled in terms of transparency and threat reduction is unacceptable,” she said in a letter to district staff. “The parents should have been notified PRIOR to a text notification after the threat was neutralized.”
She said authorities did act quickly to contain the potential threat but she said more should have been done to keep the community informed.
“In the future, proactive transparent communication should be given to the parents and students so, that we can make an informed choice as to whether we feel comfortable and safe sending our kids to school,” she said. “The psychological toll and emotional impact of children being at school when there is a potential threat is heavy and immeasurable.”
Drati said the district is providing mental health services.
“This has been an extremely difficult year for everyone — for teachers, students, families and our staff,” he said. “The stress and anxiety of still being in a pandemic, along with last week’s tragic school shooting in Michigan has worn many of us down and heightened concerns
across the country. Our mental health services staff, along with school psychologists, outside support agency partners, and other support staff is working with many students and families during this difficult time and we recognize that more are struggling and need support. We encourage you to consider our webpage focused on Mental Health and Community Resources that may be helpful to students, staff and parents.”