Two Laguna Creek High School students were cited Wednesday on suspicion of sending Instagram posts threatening a shooting at their Elk Grove campus.
The students — one male, one female, both 16 — face misdemeanor charges in connection with the online threats made Sunday, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
The male student is accused of issuing threats against public officials or employees — teachers — and of levying criminal threats. The female is accused of disturbing a public school, sheriff’s officials said. Both students were released to their parents with promises to appear at a later date before a Sacramento Juvenile Court judge.
The threats against Laguna Creek were later deemed to be unfounded, but they prompted Sacramento County deputies to increase their numbers at the high school campus Monday and again Tuesday. The threats came just days after a high school shooting in Michigan that left four students dead. The suspected shooter in the Dec. 3 killings is in custody, and his parents also were arrested and face involuntary manslaughter charges.
Sacramento County sheriff’s and Elk Grove Unified School District officials on Sunday received the threats of a shooting to take place at the Laguna Creek campus Monday or Tuesday, followed by a similar threatening post hours later directed at the high school, officials said at a Monday news conference.
“Through our investigative techniques, we were able to identify the second sender of that threat,” Sheriff’s Lt. Cary Trzcinski said Monday.
Trzcinski leads the detail that provides security to Elk Grove Unified campuses. “We were able to determine that it was more or less just a student kind of joking around with the first one,” he said.
On Wednesday, sheriff’s officials said the social media threats were no laughing matter, stressing to students and their parents that this activity leaves a digital footprint that can be traced by investigators, and that threats will be investigated and prosecuted.
“Please help your children to understand the serious consequences involved in threatening behavior on social media that will lead to criminal prosecution,” Sacramento County sheriff’s spokesman Rod Grassman said in a statement Wednesday, asking parents to “monitor and discuss the dangers of misusing social media” with their children.
Three other Elk Grove district campuses were on alert the same day as Laguna Creek High School, Elk Grove Unified officials said Wednesday. Threats to Monterey Trail High School and Joseph Kerr Middle School in Elk Grove and to T.K. Smedberg Middle School in Sacramento were also later deemed to be unfounded, but each school either received a copy of the threat directed at Laguna Creek or their students reported seeing a copy and told school officials, district spokeswoman Xanthi Soriano said Wednesday via email.
Law enforcement was stationed at each of the schools Monday and Tuesday “out of an abundance of caution,” Soriano said.
“In all four scenarios, communication was shared with parents and ... law enforcement was present on each of those campuses,” Soriano said.
Meantime, a report of a weapon at Kerr Middle School on Monday forced that campus into a precautionary lockdown as classes were winding down. Elk Grove police searched the grounds.
“The lockdown was necessary for the investigation because the report happened just before dismissal,” Soriano said in the statement. “After a thorough search of the school, law enforcement deemed the report to be unfounded.”
Elk Grove schools officials and law enforcement have warned that felony charges eventually could arise from threats, along with school suspensions or other penalties.
“If we discover that a student made the threat or proliferated the threat, appropriate action will be taken,” Soriano said Wednesday.
Trzcinski told reporters Monday that Sacramento County sheriff’s officials will send information to Sacramento County prosecutors more regularly to determine whether to pursue criminal charges when a student has been identified as someone making online threats.