SAN DIEGO -- Education and law enforcement officials pledged a collaborative effort Friday to dealing with violent threats against school campuses in San Diego County.
San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten said the district, the San Diego County District Attorney's Office and the San Diego Police Department are taking a three-pronged approach: Identifying students who make threats and holding them accountable; protecting students against real threats; and remaining vigilant.
"Students should never be victims of violence," Marten said. Since the Feb. 14 shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school that left 17 people dead, the district has received roughly 50 threats of violence, said SDUSD spokeswoman Maureen Magee. At one school alone, a threat caused attendance to drop 60 percent, Marten said.
Mike Maquez, SDUSD police chief, said that since the 2012 Newtown, Connecticut shooting -- in which 26 people were killed -- the district has spent $49 million for safety features, including fencing, visitor access control and locks.
Marquez said the district will also use the San Diego Police Department dispatch system for better and faster response.
"School safety is a collaborative effort," he said. "This is no time for apathy."
Marquez and others also said that parents need to talk to their children about the consequences of making threats.
San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit said his department will investigate every single threat and "will arrest those if necessary."
He said that in all of 2017, there were 17 cases of suspicious activity reported to his department -- but so far this year there have been 23.
San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said that in 2014, her office cultivated a group of experts to deal with threats against schools, an effort that included assessing each threat and how it should be handled. She said her office has handled 26 cases against those making threats since the start of this year alone -- and 11 minors are facing a possible felony charge for doing so.
Stephen said her office will also investigate whether a person making a threat has access to weapons, has mental health issues or any criminal record.