Threat sent to schools classified as hoax by SDPD

On the morning of May 5, TPHS administrators notified families that a hoax threat, sent to a number of schools nationwide, had been circulating among students.

A photograph of the threat was reported to Principal Rob Coppo by a TPHS family at approximately 4 a.m. After notifying the San Diego Police Department, families were told via an email from Coppo, sent approximately at 8:30 a.m., that police had determined the threat was a hoax.

According to Coppo, the photo of the threat was “out of focus” and the wording was “weird.”

“The whole thing seemed strange to me,” he said. “We noticed that it mentioned bells and we didn’t have bells that week because of AP testing [and] all these red flags, but we had to take it seriously so we called SDPD.”

The Falconer obtained a copy of the photograph of the threat and confirmed that some of the wording was inconsistent with TPHS policies, such as the threat referencing a school start time of 7:40 a.m., yet TPHS does not begin first period until 8:30 a.m.

“Somebody must have found [the hoax threat] and sent it to the family; that’s how [it got to us],” Coppo said. “We were able to stand down after that because it was clear that this was not legitimate.”

The Falconer contacted the SDPD for comment on the nature of the investigation, but did not receive a response by press time.

It was theorized the hoax threat was a case of “swatting,” where a threat is called at a specific location to disrupt the people there, according to Coppo.

In a circumstance like that, Coppo urges students to speak up.

“[If you have knowledge about a threat], tell a trusted adult, whether that’s a parent or somebody at school [and] call the police … ‘See something, hear something, say something’ works and it keeps everybody safe,” Coppo said.

Multiple students reported seeing the threat online, specifically on the social media platform Snapchat. Though she did not see the threat on May 5, Morgan Danko (10) learned of the threat via Coppo’s 8:30 a.m. email.

“I wish I could have had more of a reaction [to the threat] because it’s such a terrible thing, but I kind of just shrugged it off because it happens so often,” she said. “I definitely think that if this type of thing keeps happening, it could be really dangerous if an actual threat did [get sent] and people didn’t take it seriously.”

Another TPHS student, Nethra Mahendran (11), learned about the hoax threat in class.

“Even if measures are taken to mitigate the number of threats a given school receives, I think they will still continue to occur,” Mahendran said.

Even though threats are not preventable, there are strategies that can reduce their frequency, Coppo said. “I think the best way to help avoid these hoax threats … is to do what we did in this situation: take it seriously, investigate, don’t overreact and don’t underreact,” Coppo said.
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