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Mesa Public Schools has ‘zero tolerance’ for school threats

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PHOENIX — The new school year is several weeks in and already there have been several threats reported.

“He wasn’t happy with the grades he got last year, and he said he was going to go shoot up the school,” said Allen Moore, director of school safety and security for Mesa Public Schools, describing a recent threat made to a high school through Snapchat.

Moore said the police got involved and determined who made the threat. Officers developed probable cause and charged the student with making a threat.

This type of threat is common and is taken seriously by Mesa Public Schools, which is the largest school district in Arizona.

Moore said he wants parents to know the district has protocols in place to keep students safe.

That includes doing four lockdown drills per year and having school resource officers in every junior high and high school. Elementary schools have patrol officers who’ve been trained alongside Mesa police officers.

The district also has a Crisis Assessment and Risk Evaluation (CARE) team in every school. Each team is made up of a principal, counselor, nurse and school resource officer. They’re trained on how to assess and respond to school threats.

Michael Garcia, director of opportunity and achievement for the district, said school counselors in particular play a critical role in preventing students from making threats.

Mesa Public Schools has a counselor in every junior high and high school. Last year, it added 37 counselors so that every elementary school now has a counselor.

Garcia calls this a “step in the right direction.” He added the district continues to look for ways to hire additional counselors.

“Having more counselors is going to help us on the prevention side to prevent crises, to prevent threats and risks from happening in the first place,” he said.

Meanwhile, Moore said he wants students to know the district has a “zero tolerance” for school threats.

“Somebody might post a picture of a gun and say ‘don’t go to school tomorrow.’ We consider that a threat,” he said.

“Whether you’re joking around or not, if somebody hears that threat and it’s perceived to be real and the police develop probable cause, we will press charges,” Moore added.

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