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Alleged threat by Chowchilla student sparks panic

A student’s alleged violent threat, and his arrest Thursday, sparked Internet rumors that led to a “precautionary lockdown” Friday for Chowchilla Union High School, authorities say.

“There was a lot of misinformation being put out on social media … (but) we can’t assume it’s misinformation,” explained Chowchilla Police Lt. Jeff Palmer.

The name of the suspect, who was booked into Madera County Juvenile Hall, will not be released. Nor will Chowchilla police provide further information on the incident in the future, Palmer said.

Chowchilla Union High School District offered details in public statements via its official Facebook page.

Police notified CUHSD administration “of a violent threat” to the high school Thursday night, the district said. Police and the Madera County Sheriff’s Department arrested the suspect by 10 p.m. The next morning “a rumor of a second possible threat and possible weapon on the campus … spread out of control. These social media posts had few facts and no specific names… just hysteric statements of panic.”

As a result, some parents quickly picked up their students from school shortly after the day began, the district said. As a precaution, police and school administration locked down the school for about three hours and searched all classrooms, students and their belongings. No weapons or “evidence of a credible threat” were found.

Students were encouraged to contact their guardians to let them know they were safe, the district said.

On the school’s Facebook page, Vera Jarrell wrote at the time, “My son has been texting me. He says, ‘Stop worrying, mom! They’re doing everything necessary and then some. Especially since it’s (just) rumored, I feel safe! We’re all in here watching movies and on our phones. Best day in class yet!’ ”

The students were released to lunch before 1 p.m.

“Social media can have positive results when used carefully and responsibly,” said the district. “When used for careless and reckless comments, statements, allegations, and opinions, social media quickly becomes destructive to our society. Please use social media responsibly and teach your children to do the same.”

This isn’t the first time Chowchilla Union High School has reportedly been the subject of student threats. In March of 2018, a student was arrested and booked in juvenile hall after an investigation into alleged threats made on social media and reported to a school resource officer.

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