Gunn High shut down following Facebook threat

Campus open for summer school today

Gunn High School was shut down Thursday afternoon after a student reported a "threatening" Facebook post to Palo Alto police, Superintendent Max McGee said Friday.

The Gunn student called police after becoming concerned about a photo and post on Facebook made by a student who attends Alta Vista High School in Mountain View, a continuation high school that both Palo Alto Unified and Mountain View-Los Altos school district students attend, McGee said. McGee did not know if the Alta Vista student had attended Gunn or not.

Palo Alto police contacted Gunn Principal Denise Herrmann and Katya Villalobos, who runs the high school's summer school program. The district "chose to be cautious" and cancelled all athletic practices and summer camps at Gunn through the evening, McGee wrote an email sent to district parents Thursday night. A parent posted the email on Palo Alto Online's Town Square.

The post did not include a specific threat to any individuals or schools in the Palo Alto Unified School District, but because a Gunn student made the call to police, the school was shut down, McGee said.

Police approved the reopening of campus in the evening, McGee said. Summer school classes will continue as normal today, July 17, though there will be police presence on campus. Students enrolled in the last session of the summer currently have class daily from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Palo Alto Police Office Kelly Burger said Friday that police remained on campus for an investigation Thursday afternoon, but ultimately the case was referred to another jurisdiction and agency for follow-up. McGee said police reached the Alta Vista student's family and turned the case over to Mountain View police.

McGee applauded the student who called the police, especially in light of a shooting the same day in which a gunman opened fire at a Naval facility in Tennessee, killing four Marines.

"I talk so much about the importance of being vigilant," McGee said. "This is exactly what we're trying to teach students."

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34 people like this
Posted by 8 not 8:30
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 17, 2015 at 11:30 am

Summer school classes start at 8 am, not 8:30 as indicated in the article. This is a mistake in terms of student health IMO.

12 people like this
Posted by PAUSD parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2015 at 12:29 pm

I'm really torn here. I'm really glad people acted by erring on the side of safety. On the other hand, geez, the behavior of some of the people in the district office has hurt us and especially our child so badly, we're still not recovered and are wondering about counseling. (Not returning next year.) It was only through the exercise of extreme restraint and forgiveness that I haven't let loose any (not serious but) profanity-laced threats myself.

Sometimes people really push you over the edge, but studies even show that people who use swear words in stressful situations are actually better at diffusing their stress. I hope the situation will be viewed in context, and not overblown if it's not really a threat.

9 people like this
Posted by Frustrated PAUSD Parent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 17, 2015 at 2:27 pm

Our home received a call, but not an email. Many other current summer school families didn't receive any notification. Not handled well PAUSD! It would have been nice to explain to our children why there were police on campus. They are already scared of school bc of the recent suicides. I hope PAUSD will look into why the emergency notification failed. It's also stressful bc our kids can't miss school in the summer, would have appreciated a follow up, more detailed email by the morning so we felt safe sending our kids to school.

1 person likes this
Posted by Palo Verde Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 17, 2015 at 3:22 pm

@Frustrated PAUSD Parent
I can understand your frustration, but this is why the district used to have a communications director who was in charge of this type of thing. I think she is no longer working for PAUSD but believe this is exactly what she handled.

6 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on Jul 17, 2015 at 3:24 pm

Something like 10% of all e-mails are not delivered; it has been like that since the inception of e-mail.

Do not rely on one method as the only one for important matters. It is unwise to perceive e-mail as a reliable communication method. It's handy, but less the other party responds, there's no good way to know the message was delivered.

In the same way, IT administrators make several backups of computer systems, and keep some of the data at an offsite location, so if the building burns down, they still have a backup.

In your case, the backup communication method (a telephone call) worked. I subscribe to alerts from the Mountain View Police Department: I get e-mails as well as SMS from the Nixle service. I also follow their Twitter account, so I am getting important messages three ways.

I routinely sign up for e-mail newsletters and some of them I rarely receive (no, they are not in my junk folder) despite the fact that others receive the e-mail (friends, family members on the same list).

I repeat: do not think of e-mail as a reliable communication method. It simply isn't. It's easy and convenient, but the inventors of e-mail did not build security, dependability or reliability into the system design. They focused their efforts on interoperability instead.

1 person likes this
Posted by MV Resident
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 17, 2015 at 3:33 pm

It's worth pointing out that if ***no*** Gunn parent received an e-mail, then the blame can be pointed at the district at their failure to use e-mail for this situation.

However, it's up to @Frustrated PAUSD Parent to prove that this was indeed the case. You can be frustrated all you want, but if you were a handful of people who didn't get the e-mail and everyone else did, well, that's a good lesson to you about not trusting e-mail as @Reader explained.

4 people like this
Posted by You are confused
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 17, 2015 at 3:49 pm

@resident in MV: I think that the frustrated PAUSD parent was saying that some people received NO phone call or email. Some people received notification and some did not. I personally did not receive anything.

3 people like this
Posted by MV Resident
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 17, 2015 at 4:16 pm

Ah, it looks like I didn't read carefully. Yes, then indeed that seems like a breakdown in the school district's communication system and as someone else mentioned before, the departure of a key communications staffer probably exacerbated matters, especially if no one else had been trained to take over.

Oh well, the PAUSD administrators should reflect upon the way they handled this, and figure out how to improve.

7 people like this
Posted by But Why?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2015 at 5:10 pm

I just want to know what the Facebook post said caused them to shut down Gunn. The article said there was no specific threat to Gunn or Gunn students, and that the only reason they shut down Gunn was because a Gunn student reported it. So what did the Facebook post say? Can you give us just a little more info?

7 people like this
Posted by Gunn Summer School Parent
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 17, 2015 at 5:19 pm

I agree. I would appreciate more specific information before I send my child to Gunn on Monday.

4 people like this
Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 17, 2015 at 7:13 pm

Also this is a Great reminder to make sure that you have gone in and updated your contact and notification list correctly on your students infinite campus profile. Many reminders were sent in the spring but people forget or just click through without actually updating important info that might have changed from previous years. It is a necessary exercise every year.

4 people like this
Posted by Sea Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 17, 2015 at 7:51 pm

The schools administration is doing the best they can, the police are doing the best they can.

Let's commend them.
It is good to be very cautious.
One of school closure in summer is not a big deal. Safty of community is a bigger deal.


15 people like this
Posted by Another Summer School Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 17, 2015 at 7:55 pm

Gunn Summer School Parent, we don't really have a choice: our kids cannot miss even a day of summer school or they'll be dropped from the class. This is ridiculous IMO. My own child needed to go to summer school today even though he was feeling really sick. He came straight home and has been sleeping ever since.

9 people like this
Posted by Gunn Summer School Parent
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 17, 2015 at 8:50 pm

@Another Summer School Parent. I am so sorry your child has to go to school sick. The system is deffinately broken when your child's health is put at risk, and they expose everyone else! I certainly would have my child get dropped from class if I thought their safety was at risk with a real threat! Being that PAUSD isn't giving us real information, I hope they continue to have police at Gunn and close school if there's any real risk!

4 people like this
Posted by Gunn summer school mom
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 17, 2015 at 10:37 pm

My son just came home and I asked him if he saw police on campus today, or if anyone mentioned the Facebook threat? He said mom there have been police all over Gunn all week long. no has mentioned anythung to us about why there are so many police officers. Can we please get more information?

9 people like this
Posted by Bob Hill
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 18, 2015 at 1:58 pm

[Post removed.]

13 people like this
Posted by PAUSD parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2015 at 8:34 am

[Post removed.]

11 people like this
Posted by PAUSD parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2015 at 8:49 am

[Post removed.]

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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