SchoolLoop Digital Voice Alerts Help San Mateo

hillsdaleAugust 24, 2009 In the category of “why those tedious B2S Emergency Response Forms are imperative” I offer my personal parenting experience from this morning’s pipe-bombing incident with a former student of nearby Hillsdale High now in custody. (S.F. Gate update) Photo at left via KRON4/NBC Bay Area news)

10:13am “This is Kirk Black, Assoc. Superintendent of the San Mateo Union High School District calling to inform you that an incident has occurred this morning at Hillsdale High School that necessitated an evacuation of students to nearby Abbott middle school. We’ve secured the campus and all students are safe. All other schools in the district will remain open in the district as this was an isolated incident. Additional information will be provided as necessary. Thank you.”

Calm, direct, amazingly fast auto-phone response blitzed all of us in the district with kids in ANY of the San Mateo high schools, an excellent use of digital technology via School Loop which can “call parents in 20 languages” as well as deliver homework updates and outreach instantaneously.

school loopAs televised student reactions to the pipe bomb blast and media spin shifted from ‘truemor’ to fact, blasted all over CNN and ‘National Terror Alert’ with live coverage of the apprehended suspect in custody and heroic teachers and staff hailed for “doing what needed to be done,” I realize I went straight to the internet, Twitter, and Facebook for coverage knowing other LOCAL parents would have first-person info that may not have hit mainstream press.

I left a voicemail and text message for my daughter, to text me if she needed a pick up if her nearby school was impacted as a precautionary measure. (typical teenager, she knew she was fine, so no rush to respond, didn’t hear from her ‘til after volleyball practice!)

She later reported her high school down the street continued per usual, no ‘formal announcements’ were made but students were quelling rumors and teachers were tamping down ancillary drama quite nicely. Her school had originally planned on doing a ‘lock down drill’ today, and she said it was cancelled. As reports have shifted from two pipe bombs to ten strapped on and/or in possession, it’s readily apparent that the fast notifications and rapid faculty reaction averted parental panic extraordinaire.

Minutes ago, I received this 7:32pm auto-response SchoolLoop phone update:

“Good evening. This is Kirk Black, Assoc. Superintendent of the San Mateo Union High School District providing you with an update regarding the incident that occurred at HHS this morning. The police believe this was an isolated incident and a suspect has been taken into custody. Hillsdale will be closed tomorrow due to the ongoing police investigation however all other schools in the district will remain open and classes will continue as scheduled. The district has crisis intervention teams available to meet with Hillsdale students at the SM Adult School tomorrow morning. All other schools have counselors available to meet with students if necessary. Pls. ck with the district website for more info as it becomes available. Thank you.”

Talk about ‘using the power of media for positive change.’

The seamless ability to get FACTS over drama, and reality over sensationalism make for parental exhales and student reassurance beyond measure.

Congrats to the heroic and rapid response from Hillsdale teachers, faculty and staff and to our local police chief Susan Manheimer for her rapid response on everything from SWAT bomb squad logistics and robots checking room by room to make sure there were no other devices inside the school, to her debriefings …

Lots of civic pride and thumbs ups in our San Mateo community this evening. Can’t ask for much better ‘staying in the loop’ communications than that!!

Related Resources

Children Now: Talking With Kids About the News

Excellent specific talking tips (complete with role play, ages and stages) and a solid roundup of web link resources on violence and tragedies of various kinds

(e.g.) “What have you heard or seen? Where did you get your information?” (Other kids? TV? Internet? Teacher?)

(S.Y.) What Do You Say to Children About Headline News?

(S.Y.) Virginia Tech Tragedy, Media Coping Tips

(S.Y.) Mass Media Has A Role to Play in Curbing Violence

(S.Y.) Media, Kids & Grief: Different Ages & Stages of Loss

Kids Health: Primer/How Kids Perceive the News

Media Literacy 101: How to Detect Fear-Mongering

Watching TV News: How to Be A Smarter Viewer Media Spin Revolves Around the Word “Terrorist”

Links list below re: online news for kids via Talking With Kids About Tough Subjects:

How to Talk to Your Child About the News Simple overview/KidsHealth primer

How to Talk to Children About Terrorism: (31pp. pdf public service primer by PhD Lawrence Shapiro)

Classroom Curriculum & Exercises/Media Literacy & News:

MIT/Reconstructing: A classroom exercise; reflections on humanity and media after tragedy (deconstructing media w/analysis of sound/news footage, etc.)

World Affairs Council: Global classroom, 31pp curriculum in pdf: Teaching Media Literacy Through the Topic of Terrorism (middle/high school)

American Red Cross/Facing Fear: Free Downloadable Curriculum for K-12

PBS Teachers: Media Literacy Sites & Programs Great list of links, shows, topics, guides and more

Media Literacy Clearinghouse Frank Baker has links out the wazoo on multiple areas of specialization as well as allied orgs (see our blogroll sidebar)



  1. All: I’m posting the latest update from SMPD on the pipebomb situation that has been circulated to those of us locally involved with our Neighborhood Watch program.

    Here’s the latest on the Hillsdale High Outcome:

    PIO Lieutenant Mike Brunicardi
    200 Franklin Parkway, San Mateo, CA 94403

    August 25, 2009, 4:00 PM

    The 17-year-old Suspect of yesterday’s pipe bomb incident has been booked into the San Mateo County Juvenile Detention Facility at Hillcrest. He was booked on the following charges:
    • Attempted Murder (felony), 664-187(a) PC
    • Igniting destructive devices with intent to murder (felony), 12308 PC
    • Possession of destructive devices (felony), 12303 PC
    • Possession of destructive devices on school grounds (felony), 12303.2 PC
    • Possession of destructive devices with intent to injure or destroy property (felony), 12303.3 PC
    • Assault with deadly weapons (felony), 245(a)(1) PC

    The specific charges filed against the Suspect will be determined by the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office once the case incident is submitted.

    Based on our ongoing investigation, it is painfully clear to us that the Suspect’s sole intent was to kill, injure, or commit mayhem to as many students, teachers, and staff members as possible. We also believe there were several specific intended targets. Lastly, we have determined that the Suspect planned this attack for several months.

    We have collected evidence that is consistent with bomb-making materials that is being analyzed by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). We would like to thank the ATF for providing us with their expertise in this case incident.

    If not for the swift and heroic intervention of the school staff taken immediately by the teachers and administrators, the potential consequences of the brazen and violent acts of the suspect could have resulted in a tragedy of proportions similar to other past well-known school attacks.

    Law enforcement and the schools have learned from these past painful incidents to better plan, prepare, and train our personnel to respond to these incidents. Clearly, that training has paid off in this case. The entire community is as grateful, as we are in law enforcement, to the immediate actions taken by the school staff and the administrators and the quick thinking actions of our first responders. Their acts were selfless and heroic and likely saved untold and countless lives.

    Both the community and the parents play a vital role in the prevention and intervention of these types of incidents. All of us need to be aware of the points developed by the Secret Service to help detect the potential for these types of incidents.

    Even in the preliminary investigation of this incident, it is clear to us that the suspect in this case had many of these traits. It is up to each of us to understand and be aware of these traits and report similar suspicious behavior.

    ~ Continued on next page ~
    The Secret Service and the Department of Education “Safe School Initiative” list ten Threat Assessment traits exhibited by violence at schools; early indications are that our suspect exhibited several of these traits.

    • Attacks were rarely impulsive.

    • No consistent profile of school attackers.

    • Attackers had difficulty coping with loss and failure.

    • Attackers perceived or experienced severe, longstanding rejection and bullying by peers.

    • Motives were mostly revenge and problem-solving.

    • Most attackers engaged in some type of behavior, prior to the incident, that caused others concern or indicated a need for help.

    • Peers knew of the attacker/s plan ahead of time (some collaborated).

    • All attackers used guns. Most shooters had ready access to guns. Some made considerable efforts to acquire guns.

    • Most attackers did not threaten their targets directly prior to attack.

    • All attackers were of concern to parents, teachers, and / or peers.

    We are very aware that there are risks of “copycat” incidents taking place in the United States based on news coverage of this incident. It is vital that awareness and preventions are in place to avoid the possibility of other attacks.

    City of San Mateo 2009 Mayor Brandt Grotte could not attend today’s conference and wanted us to relay the following statement:

    “The City Council and citizens of San Mateo are greatly relieved that there were no serious injuries as a result of the incident at Hillsdale High School.

    It is recognized that the Staff of Hillsdale High School, the students, and the responding public safety agencies all acted in a prompt, professional, and calm manner. The result was a swift, injury-free, and effective evacuation. We are extremely proud of all who were involved, and we are relieved that the suspect is in custody.

    The San Mateo Union High School District and our police force have planned and trained for this and other incidents, and we are grateful that such planning worked so well. Both the High School District and SMPD were immeasurably aided by public safety agencies up and down the peninsula. For the assistance and selfless acts of these agencies, the San Mateo community remains forever grateful.”

    Released August 24, 2009, 6:50 PM
    The San Mateo Police Department has arrested a person who is responsible for detonating explosive devices on school grounds. The involved school was safely evacuated and the remainder of the school day was canceled. No students or staff members were injured as a result of this incident.

    On August 24, 2009, at 8:07 AM, the San Mateo Police Department Dispatch Services received several phone calls from Hillsdale High School staff (3115 Del Monte Street) that a person was on school grounds, possibly with a firearm. Subsequent telephone calls reported that an explosion occurred inside the school. Officers arrived within minutes and confirmed that several explosions occurred.

    Our investigation is current and ongoing. We have learned the following:
    • The juvenile Suspect arrived on campus about 8:00 AM, at the start of school.
    • The Suspect possessed at least ten explosive devices (homemade pipe bombs), a chain saw, and a sword. The pipe bombs and sword were attached to a tactical vest the suspect wore.
    • The Suspect entered the north-west hallway of the academic wing near the library.
    • The Suspect detonated two of the pipe bombs in that hallway.
    • Two teachers heard the explosions and confronted the Suspect.
    • The Suspect attempted to leave the school and was confronted by a third teacher who tackled the Suspect outside of the exit door. The principal and the teacher held the Suspect for Police Officers who arrived within minutes and took the suspect into custody. Arriving officers were very concerned that the bombs would explode and cause injury and evacuated the immediate vicinity and disarmed the suspect, cutting off the vest containing the pipe bombs and sword.
    • It should be noted that at the time the school staff restrained the suspect, and the officers disarmed the Suspect, he was wearing the vest with no less than eight active pipe bombs still attached. These individuals, with complete disregard for their own personal safety, displayed HEROIC actions putting their own lives in jeopardy to ensure the safety of the students and the campus.
    • Simultaneously, the smoke associated with the devices the suspect detonated activated the fire alarm system of the school, which started the evacuation of the students throughout the campus.
    • This helped with the rapid evacuation of the campus as officers secured and cleared the school campus.
    • The remaining devices were later detonated at the scene after a complete evacuation by the responding bomb squads.
    • No firearm was located.
    • The Suspect is a 17-year-old male, who we believe acted alone and targeted Hillsdale High School. The suspect will be charged in this incident later today and booked into Hillcrest Juvenile Campus.
    • The Suspect is a former student, who has not attended any San Mateo Union High School District school for over a year.
    • We are currently investigating the motive and intent involving this incident and searching for further evidence.

    The Hillsdale High School staff showed great professionalism in executing the pre-determined safety plans and successfully evacuated about 1,270 students to nearby Abbott Middle School, where they organized the safe and orderly release of students to their parents. The San Mateo Union High School District immediately sent out an automated telephone notification to all parents of the students advising them that no students were injured, that the school was closed for the remainder of the day, and that the pick-up site for their children was at the middle school. The San Mateo Police Department also sent out an automated telephone alert message to residents in the immediate area asking residents to shelter in place until the entire situation was resolved.

    SMPD Officers called in allied law enforcement agencies that assisted in securing the scene and managing the incident. The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office Bomb Squad coordinated the hazardous scene and was later joined by the San Francisco PD Bomb Squad and the San Jose PD Bomb Squad. Evidence is still being gathered to ensure that the high school campus is safe and there is no further threat of danger.

    Our information to this point indicates that this suspect does not pose any associated threat to any other schools. The San Mateo Union High School District and the SMPD are working together to provide increased presence and safety measures at all local schools, to ensure that the school community feels safe and protected. Note that the school and the immediate area are still closed to vehicle and pedestrian traffic to complete the disarming of the devices and the management of the crime scene.

    To check on whether the school will be open tomorrow, visit or

    The schools and the law enforcement community within this county train extensively and exhaustively to prepare for these types of incidents and have plans in place for these events. It is just this type of preparation that prevented what may have been a tragic series of events as this individual was well armed and could have caused severe injury and damage.

    The police department and the school district want to ensure a safe learning environment for all of our schools. Partnerships and protocols have been developed between schools, police, teachers, parents, and the community to help achieve this goal.

    We want to remind everyone of the following safety measures:

    • Settle arguments with words, not fists.
    • There is no tolerance for any sort of weapon being brought on school grounds.
    • Students should report all crimes and suspicious persons to appropriate authorities.
    • Students must avoid drugs and alcohol.
    • Students need to report any bullying activity or threats of violence.
    • Do not perpetuate rumors; get the facts and correct others.

    • Build on your child’s strengths.
    • Maintain an open and active communication with your child.
    • Always know where your child is and what they’re involved with.
    • Help your child deal with stress and all “situations.”
    • Stay involved in your child’s activities.

    Take a stand against crime in your community and join your Neighborhood Watch group. If one doesn’t exist, you can start one with help from SMPD or your local law enforcement agency.

    For additional information about the City of San Mateo Neighborhood Watch Program, call Sergeant Dave Ehrlich at 650-522-7744 or visit our web site at: click on: Departments / Police/Programs and Services / Neighborhood Watch Program. Or click on the link: City of San Mateo Neighborhood Watch Program.
    .-= Amy Jussel´s last blog ..Do Those ‘Take Action’ Causes and AutoFill Forms Really Work? =-.

  2. Many of you parents do wonderful jobs at raising healthy functional kids. This event reminds us how inept some parents are at raising kids or in the case of the government, creating a healthy framework that parents can parent in.

    I don’t have kids, but watch what many of you parents go though. I continue to be embarrassed at my country (how it treats our own people).

    Thanks Amy for the major effort you make at waking people up!


  3. great and informative article regarding kids, thnx

  4. Times they are a changin’ indeed…thanks to you all for your kind words. And “Children Assessment” I just checked your site and love your positive spin on ‘the soft stuff’ and inspiration. Appreciate the outreach. I’m @ShapingYouth on Twitter if you’re there, I’d love to ‘follow’ you and hear more about your work with kids! 🙂
    .-= Amy Jussel´s last blog ..Flash Animation & Viral KidVid? Give Pause =-.

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