PIMA COUNTY, Ariz. — It's been a week or two since school started, and Tucson-area schools have already seen two campus safety scares. Just within the last two days, extra security was placed at Palo Verde High School after a social media threat. And a student was detained for having a weapon at Santa Rita High School.
"We've found that there have been people in the unfortunate position that they knew about it. In the majority of instances, there was somebody that a threat had been made by the person who carried it out," said Deputy Bill Farmer, with the Pima County Sheriff's Department.
Farmer is a school resource officer at Cienega High School who said, as a student, if you come across a school threat, report it immediately to an adult or law enforcement.
"Have we investigated school shooting threats? Yeah, yeah we have. Have we investigated a lot of them that are copycats that come shortly after a mass casualty incident that happens in our country? Yeah, that happens, too. The thing I can say, is that we treat every threat as through its credible. We treat every threat as though it's the real thing," said Farmer.
In his career as an SRO, Farmer has seen threats as outbursts in classrooms, in group texts, emails or documents. If a threat is made using a school's internet, most schools have filters that picks up key words, that if used, will throw up a red-flag and alert school officials and SROs.
"This actually just happened two days ago. Where a school got a filter-hit on a word. They said, 'Hey, we need to look at this.' Turned out a student made a Google document that had some very serious verbiage to it, and it was an educational moment for that student. I got to talk to him about, 'Hey, if you say these kinds of things in our society, you should expect attention.'" said Farmer.
He said our kids aren't just hiding under desks anymore, but are fully participating in active shooter drills on a regular basis.
"This is the societal threat that we're up against now. What parents should take solace in, is that people are becoming more prepared for it," said Farmer.
If you hear a school is on soft lock down, that means an incident is happening near the school or neighborhood. Kids remain in the classroom and instruction is not interrupted.
With a hard lock down, the threat is higher with the possibility of harm. The campus closes, teaching stops, lights are off and students are quiet.