Former student arrested with loaded weapon

Staff, students react to threat of violence

By Miya Liu, with additional reporting by Saanvi Thakur, Shreya Partha and Elaine Huang

FUHSD staff, parents and students received an email on Sept. 19 stating that a current HHS student had received threatening messages on social media from a student at San Jose State University.

The messages, however, did not mention any names or locations, and there was no specific threat to HHS or its students, FUHSD coordinator of communications Rachel Zlotziver said in a phone interview.

“We did have a police presence [on campus],” Zlotziver said. “Not because there was any threat, but to make individuals feel safe on campus, because we know this was an upsetting situation for many.”

While ‘Run Hide Defend’ is a necessary thing because it gives people a training in terms of how to react in a situation or an emergency … we realize that it’s a reactive rather than proactive approach. ‘The Sandy Hook Promise’ … is an app that talks more about connecting [students] and making sure if you see something, you speak up.

— Principal Greg Giglio

The 17-year-old SJSU student, who had previously attended HHS, and who was not identified because he is a minor, was tracked down and taken to Juvenile Hall. 

According to the police report, he was in possession of  “a loaded semi-automatic gun … and equipment to manufacture ammunition and knives.” The firearm was unregistered and had been made from parts bought online, according to ABC 7 News. 

According to the same news source, the culprit was swiftly apprehended by authorities the day after HHS administration reported the threat to the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety, which also determined that students and staff at HHS were safe and did not have reason to worry about the incident. 

Staff hailed the student who reported the threat as heroic for coming forward and helping to prevent a potentially violent situation. 

“I think the person who came forward [is] a hero,” student conduct liaison Louise Garces said, “and we need more heroes like them at school.”

Although the issue has been taken care of, thanks to the actions of the HHS administration, Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety and San Jose State Police, students are now more aware of the potential for violence on campus, leaving some, like junior Lauren Genovese, with increased concerns.

“It’s kind of eye opening to realise that something that we hear so much in the news can actually happen close to home,” Genovese said.

The district and school administration have been proactive since the incident in ensuring staff, parents and students feel safe and informed.

On the day of the arrest, immediately after 7th period, staff were called into an emergency staff meeting and representatives from the district, including district superintendent Polly Bove, as well as the HHS administration debriefed the staff on the occurrence. 

Shortly thereafter, staff, parents and students were sent an email from Zlotziver, with information on the arrest entitled, “Important Message from FUHSD.”

“FUHSD staff and administrators were notified by a current [HHS] student that they had received threatening messages on social media,” the email stated. “Upon learning of these threats, we immediately contacted Sunnyvale Public Safety … Sunnyvale Public Safety was able to identify the individual as a current San Jose State student, and with the assistance of the San Jose State University Police Department, make an arrest in this case.”

Additionally, the morning following the incident, principal Greg Giglio made an announcement to the student body at the end of the daily bulletin, emphasizing to students and staff that prior to and as a result of this incident, there is not and never was a threat to HHS. 

“[Safety] has always been a school priority,” Garces said.

Just last week, before the incident occurred, staff attended annual “Run Hide Defend” trainings in preparation for “code red” disturbances, such as an active shooter on campus.

Principal Greg Giglio said there are several other security measures the school and district have been considering – even before this incident – as a way to ensure the safety of students and staff.

“We’ve been looking at getting cameras installed,” Giglio said. “Cameras aren’t going to stop anything from happening, but cameras do give people a sense of security in that it’s easier to monitor them … it’s easier to go back and trace something that happens.”

Additionally, the district has been looking into partnering with Sunnyvale and Cupertino school districts on the implementation of an app called “The Sandy Hook Promise,” Giglio said.

“While ‘Run Hide Defend’ is a necessary thing because it gives people a training in terms of how to react in a situation or an emergency … we realize that it’s a reactive rather than proactive approach,” Giglio said. “‘The Sandy Hook Promise’ … is an app that talks more about connecting [students] and making sure if you see something, you speak up.”

Some staff, however, such as English teacher Shawnee Rivera, continue to feel discomfort about the situation.

“I feel as though this is a situation where more information disseminated is important to ease people’s frame of mind,” Rivera said, “and I know that there are some things that by law can’t be shared, but if it can be, it must be.”

Both the district and the HHS administration have taken the situation very seriously, Giglio said, but emphasize the fact that the staff and students are safe from any potential harm.

Moving forward, Giglio said he continues to encourage students to share concerns with a trusted adult.

“We even take jokes seriously,” Giglio said. “Unfortunately, we’re in a world now where we can’t afford to sit there and say, ‘I didn’t mean that,’ or ‘I’m just kidding.’ It’s like, ‘well, you don’t get to say those things anymore.’”

Knowing the administration is handling potential threats, whether they’re serious or not, is something Giglio said he hopes will bring comfort to students.

“We’re here for the kids,” senior clerical assistant to the deans, Nancy Navarro, said, “and we’ll make sure to take care of them.”

Updated 9/24/19 at 2:57pm