Hawaii’s school superintendent and Honolulu Police Department’s deputy police chief said Friday the recent string of violent threats by students would be thoroughly investigated.

“We cannot stress enough that these threats aren’t taken lightly,” said Hawaii school Superintendent Christina Kishimoto during a joint press conference with the HPD official.

The event addressed the more than dozen incidents threatening violence at Oahu schools since January 1. Further threats were made across the state in the wake of a February 14 mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school that killed 17 people and wounded many others.

HPD Deputy Chief John McCarthy said his department has made two arrests, identified a couple of potential perpetrators and downgraded at least one other threat in the last two days.

Hawaii Education Superintendent Christina Kishimoto spoke with Assistant Chief John McCarthy about recent student threats in schools.
Superintendent Christina Kishimoto and Deputy Chief John McCarthy discuss recent threats of school violence by students. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“Since January 1, we have dealt with more than a dozen threats directly dealing with Oahu schools,” he said.

He also said many of the reported incidents turned out to be hoaxes and that there would be ramifications.

“A lot of these threats — it’s a way to get out of school, a way to gain attention. They’re not really threats,” he said. “We have to evaluate and assess those threats. We do that in a variety of ways.”

In the wake of the Florida shooting, local schools that have responded to student threats include Oahu’s Waianae High School and Kapolei Middle and Big Island’s Konawaena High School, Pahoa High and Intermediate School, Keaau High School and Keaau Middle School.

Earlier this month, Mililani High also dealt with a bomb scare and a Mililani Middle School student found a note in a classroom that threatened to “shoot up the school,” according to Hawaii News Now.

More recent threats have been posted on social media. Anybody who’s reposting such posts will also face consequences, according to McCarthy. The act of making a threat can be considered a felony offense punishable by up to five years, he said.

The deputy police chief also stressed that investigating threats that turn out to be a hoax drain departmental resources and take away from the educational learning environment.

“We’re expending a lot of time, energy, manpower and resources investigating what it turns out to be bogus incidents,” he said.

He also said the department has not found weapons at schools in recent years — and that there has been “a downturn” in this regard. He declined to disclose additional details about the two arrests made in the last two days, including which schools they’re related to.

The DOE oversees 256 public schools statewide. HPD patrols only Oahu, while the neighbor islands have their own police departments.

In the wake of heightened concerns since the Florida shooting, the DOE has sought to assure parents that appropriate safeguards are being followed. A letter sent home to parents on Feb. 16 informed parents about drills and emergency plans developed by school principals.

Additionally, schools can opt to conduct “active shooter drills.” McCarthy said the HPD offers training to schools on such drills and that they consist of the “biggest, most demanded (kind of ) training.”

“We do treat all threats to student safety and teacher safety, even (to) parents, seriously,” he said. “We evaluate every single threat that comes in. We stepped up our protocols in our police department so we’re addressing those issues and proper notifications are being made.”

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