Local School District’s Name Prompts False Alarm of Threat

An apparent threat made on social media against a “Burbank” school last Friday prompted concern from many parents, but local officials soon notified the community that the message was made against a school by the same name in San Antonio, Texas.

The threat — which according to a screenshot shared on Twitter was first made on Instagram — implied potential violence against the Burbank and Brackenridge High School campuses in San Antonio, WOAI Channel 4 reported Friday. The San Antonio Independent School District was cited as telling the station that police had taken a student into custody on suspicion of making the post, though the district also said that the threats were not “credible.”

Meanwhile, John Paramo, the Burbank Unified School District’s assistant superintendent of educational services, said in an email to community members Friday morning that a social media message had threatened “Burbank” schools, but that the Burbank Police Department had not determined the threat to be credible.

Still, news of the threat spread through social media as worried parents and guardians sought more information. Some picked up their children from their schools, though BUSD Superintendant Matt Hill said the district didn’t evacuate or lock down buildings.

This was not the first time local schools have faced an apparent threat that police later determined was noncredible. Nor, according to Sgt. Stephen Turner, who leads the BPD’s juvenile bureau, was it the first time the BUSD community has experienced confusion over a threat allegedly made against a similarly-named school elsewhere.

The city of Burbank is named after David Burbank, who owned much of the land that later became a municipality. Several other cities and schools, however, have taken the name after American botanist Luther Burbank (a local middle school also shares his name).

“Unfortunately [it’s] the day and age,” Turner told the Leader. “It’s understandable that parents get nervous.”

Burbank police deployed additional patrols near local schools on Friday as a precaution, Turner added.

Even the use of acronyms has widened the ripple effects of online threats. In 2018, a threat against a “BHS” prompted a BPD investigation. Police determined that the message targeted not Burbank High School but Belen High School in New Mexico.

— Oscar Areliz contributed to this report.