Reports of a school threat in the Standard School District are just rumors.
That's the word from the Kern County Sheriff's Department after tips came in overnight Monday, warning of a possible shooting at Standard Middle School in Oildale on Tuesday. Still, some parents kept their kids out of class Tuesday out of fear.
Investigators say they believe it started as a social media post involving three middle schoolers. They say through re-posts and text messages, the rumor snowballed and the message changed like a game of 'telephone.'
Students at Standard Middle School and North High School were met by Sheriff's deputies Tuesday morning, and parents were scrambling while rumors of threats were flying.
Bruce Payne, a grandfather of one of the students, was among them. "Yeah, she told me to come down here and get the grandkids as fast as I could," said Payne.
"I had friends messaging me asking me if I was taking my kids to school and to please watch the news," said Bonnie Fortson, a parent who chose to let her daughter come to school.
Ray Pruitt with the Sheriff's Department, says there was no threat.
"It doesn't appear that there was any validity to the rumor," explained Pruitt.
Pruitt says tips of a possible threat started coming in Monday night. With the help of school staff, deputies were led to a group of middle schoolers.
Investigators say one student went on a social media site and posted that another student might do something to another student. But, when investigators went to that other student's house that was posted could act out, that student knew nothing about it. And, the posting had spread and changed through other social media sites and text messages.
"It grew to include other schools," explained Pruitt. "It grew to include other students. And, it grew to include a potential hit list. And, we've been able to determine there's no validity to those rumors at all."
Wendy Avila is a Deputy District Attorney. "Threats are a very serious thing," said Avila.
Avila says due to California's Penal Codes, threats online or otherwise could be considered terrorist or criminal threats, and in most cases, it's a felony.
"The students don't have to have the intent of carrying that out," said Avila, "But, solely that it's taken as a threat. So, that's where a lot of them don't understand. They think they are just putting something out on social media and it will be ok. It's not a big deal, but it's a very big deal."
The Sheriff's office says it won't submit this case to the D.A., but it's a reminder of how serious authorities take all threats.
"Something two or three years ago would have been dispelled as just a rumor and not looked into or forwarded onto law enforcement. It probably will now," said Pruitt.
The Standard School District sent e-mails to parents and updated their Twitter and Facebook accounts throughout the day Tuesday to keep parents up to date. According to a statement they released, school will go on as scheduled Wednesday. They have yet to comment on how many students were absent Tuesday and what punishment the students involved would receive.
To see the entire district's statement, follow the following link: