By Albert Chang-Yoo and Melissa Domingo
On Wednesday night, the Shasta administration was informed of an Instagram post that contained threats of violence against students. The owner of the account, a Shasta student, later claimed that the post was a joke. However, the administration took steps to ensure student safety on campus.
Throughout the school day on Thursday, staff made sure that students were comfortable on school grounds. Teachers and administrators were outside, interacting with students during breaks and lunch, as well as before and after school. Shasta’s student counselor was available to talk to students throughout the day. In addition, a Daly City police officer was on campus during breaks to maintain a calm environment.
In an email sent to students and parents, the director of Summit Shasta, Wren Maletsky, stated, “We want to be as clear as possible that threats of violence and fear are not only unacceptable at Shasta, they are a crime. Every student has a right to an education free from fear and safe from harm [original emphasis].” The email was later followed by another email, confirming that the matter of the threat had been resolved and that students were safe to stay on campus.
How did the administration respond?
Adelaide Giornelli, Shasta Dean of Culture and Instruction, explained the precautionary measures taken during this time: “I think it was multi-stepped: I became aware of it when teachers and students and families all separately reached out to me. I believe I got the first text after 10 p.m. So, my first move was to call the Daly City Police Department and report what I had heard. They informed me at that time; they had already been working on the case for an hour; I think because someone had reported it directly to them earlier.”
Ms. Giornelli then said that she drafted an email that was sent directly to students and families, informing them of what had occurred and the steps that they were taking to ensure student safety. She also emailed teachers and mentors, suggesting what they could say to their mentees and students about the incident.
Ms. Giornelli also explained that the problem had to be directly communicated because “we didn’t want things to be going through a rumor mill.” In addition, she wanted to make students aware of the police presence at school: “We have students who are members of communities where the police do not make them feel safe because of the relationship between police and communities of color in America at large right now. We wanted to make sure all students knew that so that was not a surprise.”
When reflecting on the short amount of time it took for members of the school to notify the authorities, Ms. Giornelli said, “Shasta is my home. I think in a lot of ways the student body here and the community here feels like a family, and it’s been powerful for me to see how many students, parents, and community members were, like, immediately willing to step up, reach out and inform us of what was happening.”
How did the students respond?
There were a range of emotions felt by Summit Shasta students. Some, like Shasta sophomore Theodore Gim, found it to be another mundane day: “Like, it was any other day, ‘cause nothing happened,” he explained. Matthew Lam, another Shasta sophomore, shared the same sentiments. He said, “I was actually OK because, like, the school contacted us and was, like, letting us know; they gave us information before I got to school, so that was good.”
However, some students also experienced feelings of nerves and shock, such as Shasta freshman Jayden DuYee. He said, “I came to school as if it was a regular day, but definitely a little bit more aware and tense about the situation. I definitely knew something was gonna happen, whether it was an act of danger, or just an act of safety; but, to be honest, it’s just extremely nerve-racking that something like this could come up to our school.” Shasta senior Shayla Branner also said, “I was asking my peers what happened, and then they just gave me a summary. After I checked in with Ms. Dayon, and she ran down everything and I was really in shock.”
Shasta junior Aaron Susantin felt irritation toward the situation: “Once I heard the context, my feelings turned less from fear to more irritation.” He also mentioned the transparency between the faculty and families: “But I do appreciate that there was a rather swift response to this … I think that making the information known to us was good.”
Shasta students appreciated the precautionary measures that were taken during this time. Shasta freshman Evangelina Gutierrez said, “I think they did a good job because, like, they said that they were gonna have the teachers out and police officers during lunch, so, like, if anything did happen, they would all be there to, like, react as quick as they could.”
Lam also mentioned that mentors “gave a presentation before we started mentor SDL [Self-Directed Learning], talking about the incident; again, they were just giving [students] more information.”
Susantin also said, “I saw some cops. I remember my mentor, during our mentor block, talking about it, giving us context. He then offered some support, some various support such as counseling, and he stated that teachers would be outside if anyone wanted to talk to them.”
Shasta senior Kayla Branner said, “I think the school did what they could, like, with the cops; I felt safe that the cops were here. I liked how the teachers showed that they were here for us; they all sat with us outside … I liked how they had the doors opened, just in case, you know, anybody didn’t feel safe. I like how they gave us the option to talk to somebody if we didn’t feel safe around the cops, too. So, yeah, I think the school did good and contacted our parents, so that was good.”
How did the mentors respond?
Many of the teachers also expressed shock and sadness over what occurred. Elizabeth Casey, senior mentor and English teacher, said her feelings moved “from disappointed to distraught.” Gene Lee, junior mentor and science teacher, said, “I guess this is the world that we live in now … it was probably just a bad joke that went wrong.” Avi Vigdorchik, co-mentor with Mr. Lee and also a science teacher, said, “I hope it doesn’t affect anyone in the long run. And I hope that this helps people think about their choices of why they say things and what sorts of actions they want to engage it.”
Some mentors communicated frustration, feeling upset with the situation. “I was annoyed by the fact that someone thought it was funny, that somebody thought it was a joke,” Kelley Nugent, junior mentor, explained. “That’s not something you take lightly in this climate, of what’s going on today in our world.”
Other mentors also said they felt a need to help support students. English teacher and junior mentor Laura Friday said that teachers were going to continue to support students: “I’ve been like checking in with, like small groups of kids, and just telling them that, like, I’m here for them. And I think the same goes with all teachers, like we’re here for our kids; and we love our kids; and we just want our kids to, like, feel safe and happy while they’re here.”
Rachel Baumgold, freshman mentor and math teacher, explained how the administration supported the school: “Shasta wrote up a way to explain to students the summary of what happened and gave mentors ideas for what questions to ask, facilitate conversations with students to make them feel safe and make them feel like they could express their emotions that they’re feeling.” Each mentor group discussed the incident during morning SDL.
Online safety was another concern highlighted by teachers. “I think as, as teachers and as students, we need to think a little bit more about what we do online and make sure that it’s aligning with, like, who we are as a person and that we’re not, like, hiding behind a screen and being someone other than who we are online,” Keren WuRohe, sophomore mentor and math teacher, said. Milagros Morris, sophomore mentor and Spanish teacher, also commented on social media concerns: “I want to tell the kids, the kids to be very careful on social media. And take this thing seriously, and if they see something, say something.”
The overarching theme among mentors was a feeling of admiration for the resilience of Shasta students. Nathaniel Thompson, sophomore mentor and Spanish teacher, said, “I’m just really proud of the students today. I think everyone handled it with about as much grace as we could expect from high-school-age people.”
Ms. WuRohe spoke of the student response: “I am impressed with the strength of the community and the maturity of a lot of students to recognize how silly like something like this is to do, like how, how stupid it is to do something like this.”
Ben Alexander, Evelyn Archibald, Zachary Navarra and Mytrisha Sarmiento contributed reporting to this article.