Anonymous comment on mobile app, Yik Yak, alerts authorities to possible bomb threat and SCHS, Orange County Sheriff’s Officials confirm

San Clemente High School. Photo by Brian Park
San Clemente High School. Photo by Brian Park

By Jim Shilander, Updated at 1:41 p.m.

A lockdown at San Clemente High School was lifted around 1 p.m., four hours after Orange County Sheriff’s Department officials deemed an anonymous bomb threat comment on a mobile social media application “credible,” officials have confirmed.

The threat was discovered by the school resource officer during a follow-up on an unrelated matter, said OCSD spokesman Lt. Jeff Hallock. A posting on the anonymous mobile-social networking application, Yik Yak, indicated there was a bomb at the school, Hallock said.

The OCSD Hazardous Device Squad performed a sweep of the campus, and nothing suspicious was located, Hallock said after arriving at the scene.

During the squad’s investigation, the school operated under a “shelter in place” mode, where students were not allowed to leave their classrooms or convene in common areas, Hallock said.

Authorities search the San Clemente High School campus with dogs following a bomb threat Thursday. Photo by Andrea Swayne
Authorities search the San Clemente High School campus with dogs following a bomb threat Thursday. Photo by Andrea Swayne

Capistrano Unified School District spokesman Marcus Walton said food and water was provided to classrooms during the lockdown.

According to the OCSD’s Twitter account, the threat was discovered at approximately 9 a.m. on the anonymous mobile social media app Yik Yak, which has caused similar disturbances across the nation.

The app allows users to send comments anonymously and location services bring comments to a user’s feeds from others nearby. There appears to be no way to trace the source, but the comments can be disseminated widely.

According to Yikyakapp.com, the only information asked for is the commenter’s location.

“No profile, no password, it’s all anonymous,” the website says. The site goes on to say, “Anonymity is powerful, for better or for worse.”

The same social media application has been cited in news reports for its potential in bullying.

Police in Marblehead, Mass. also cited the app as the cause of two evacuations of a high school there earlier this week, when similar threats were discovered via the application. Three high schools in Mobile County, Alabama also were disrupted last month due to similar threats.

Parents are encouraged to call the school’s parent information line at 949.234.5575 with questions.

Students will be release as scheduled at 2:45 p.m. Authorities have asked that parents stay away from the school until the dismissal time.

A uniform presence will remain on campus at least until students are dismissed, Hallock said.

SCHS parents who were at the scene reported receiving texts from their children about the lockdown at approximately 10 a.m., just before receiving the same word from the school.

“They have to do what they have to do,” parent Kristi Allard said of the sheriff’s department response. “It’s unfortunate, because it’s probably nothing, but in this day and age, you don’t know.”

Hallock said the response had to balance over-and under-reaction.

“We don’t want to react in a fashion that encourages this sort of thing happening again,” Hallock said.

Andrea Papagianis contributed to this report.

 

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