NewsLocal News


Amid online threats, mental health experts urge parents to monitor kids' social media

School shooting threats on social media prompt local authorities to take action
Law enforcement officials in both Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County confirmed that no credible threats were made in this area, but they encourage anyone to report any suspicious posts.
Posted at 6:32 PM, Dec 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-17 22:39:24-05

Nationwide school shooting threats circulating on social media had district officials, parents and students across the Central Coast on high alert Friday.

“A little bit confusing to know what to take seriously and what may be a joke, or I guess a trend on social media,” said Cassie Idler, a concerned mother.

“The District was proactive in providing extra support from law enforcement at all of our school sites," said Kenny Kline, Santa Maria Joint Union High School District Public Information Officer.

San Luis Obispo Police, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office all confirmed that no credible threats were reported on Friday.

The organization Moms Demand Action said these social media trends are another reason for them to advocate to end gun violence.

“We are working locally with school districts and elected officials about notifying parents about their legal responsibility to just store their firearms safely,” explained Kendall Pata, Moms Demand Action Santa Barbara Chapter’s Co-lead.

For mental health experts, monitoring social media is key in identifying red flags.

“Withdrawal from friends, a victim of bullying or someone who does bullying, excessive irritability,” said Dr. Joe Holifield, a psychologist and threat management coordinator for the Behavioral Health Assessment Response Project (B-HARP).

Since 2019, and thanks to a state grant, Dr. Holifield has led B-HARP in San Luis Obispo County to provide threat management support to schools, hoping to serve as a model across California.

“Looking at developing their community-based threat response team that would triangulate law enforcement, educational institutions and behavioral health and diverting students that might be having some difficulties,” Dr. Holifield added.

The next step is creating a network.

“Training mental health professionals on things to look for in their work,” Holifield said.

B-HARP will be providing more training sessions to local schools next spring. They also plan to engage with parents and students through surveys so they feel more comfortable reporting threats to law enforcement and district officials.

San Luis Obispo County has a mental health crisis line that struggling teens and parents can call at (800) 783-0607. In case of an emergency, dial 9-1-1.