Thursday, May 10, 2018
At least one San Marcos High School boy connected to an online video describing how to kill female fellow students with a gun and bayonet is facing multiple felonies, according to parents closely connected to the incident. The 90-second mock instructional video — which features a young male wielding a colonial-era musket as a weapon against “thots,” an acronym for “that ho over there” — was accompanied by a chat-room list of “thots that need to be eradicated,” naming at least 16 female students at San Marcos, Dos Pueblos, and Santa Barbara high schools and a 12-year-old at La Colina Junior High. Due to privacy laws protecting minors, details remain elusive; parents attempting to follow the case could not say with certainty whether the boy in the video or one of his chat-room friends is the one now facing felony charges. “I can’t comment on an alleged juvenile case,” said Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley.
Soon after the chat-room video and hit list came to light on January 19, San Marcos parent Ericka Dixon helped establish Santa Barbara Parents for High School Safety, which now has close to 100 members, representing elementary, junior high, and high school grade levels. Early on, the parent group composed a timeline of the video incident and the responses of school and district administrators. On January 29, according to the timeline, a small group of San Marcos first-year students gave statements to Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office deputies, explaining that one of the chat-room boys had been openly speaking with peers on campus about planning a school shooting, including how he was going to obtain weapons. This information was never publicized by the Sheriff’s Office, and no arrests were made.
In an unrelated incident on February 23 at Carpinteria Middle School, an unarmed 13-year-old boy made criminal threats, saying he was going to shoot up the school; he was arrested that same day and booked into Santa Maria Juvenile Hall. After attempts to reach Sheriff Bill Brown and two Public Information Officers for an explanation of why seemingly similar threats were handled differently, public information officer Kelly Hoover sent an email stating, “The Sheriff’s Office conducted a comprehensive investigation and forwarded the case to the DA’s Office. Because the case is in the judicial process, we refer any questions regarding this case to the DA’s Office.” She added, "While I cannot go into the specifics of these juvenile cases, I can say that each one had a unique set of circumstances. I can assure you that in each of these cases, public safety was our number one consideration."
Meanwhile, one parent, whose daughter was targeted and ridiculed on the chat-room list, set out “to make sure my daughter and the other girls were able to feel safe again,” she said, wishing to remain anonymous. “I wanted the school and the district to be more proactive, but they weren’t. I wanted these boys out of there for good.” Pressing school and law-enforcement officials for details on the punishments and whereabouts of the chat-room boys, she made little headway. Only after hiring a private investigator, she said, did she learn that some of the boys who had been removed from campus had resumed private online chats about school shootings and were playing a video game recreating the Columbine High School massacre. Late last month, she decided that her daughter would not attend San Marcos High School next year.
Another mother has already transferred her daughter — also named on the hit list — away from San Marcos. She said the chat-room incident traumatized her daughter. She’s come home after school in tears. Her hair started falling out. She lost a lot of sleep. And in each of her classes, she’d plan where she could run or hide if San Marcos suddenly became the site of yet another national tragedy.
Dixon suggested that authorities might consider more focused monitoring of the juvenile offenders. “It’s not our place [as a parent group] to advocate for them to be placed in custody,” she said. “But we’re certainly suggesting that intervention would be beneficial. Who’s helping manage their situations? They need support.”
“We’re concerned about student and community safety,” she added. “Are the named victims safe? Because of privacy concerns, we don’t know.” Based on student observations and parent talk, it’s believed that three of the chat-room boys who participated at a lesser level have returned to school; two have moved away; and two, including the one now in court, have been expelled.
Outgoing San Marcos Principal Ed Behrens did not respond to calls and emails for comment. District Superintendent Cary Matsuoka said he could not comment on the boys’ disciplinary outcomes. “I’ve been on campus a lot during the past couple of months,” he added. “Things have calmed down. We’re not seeing a mass exodus of kids. In fact, enrollment at San Marcos is up for next year.”
Partnering with the parent group, the district’s newly formed Task Force on School Climate and Safety will hold a community forum at 7 p.m. on May 16 at La Colina Junior High.