PHELAN, Calif. – Starting high school can be a nerve-racking experience to a freshman student. Getting good grades, being “popular”, and making the sports team are used as depictions of struggles of high school students; but what about death threats? That’s the issue that took the main stage for one Serrano High School student on Monday, November 3.
Jezriel Kenney was at practice for the Serrano Cheer Squad when she learned that her friend had received an anonymous message on a mobile chat service that stated Jezriel was going to be murdered during the first period of classes. The message even included a time, “7:05”, that was supposed to mark the end of her life.
“At first I looked at it and I actually had to read it over a second time because I was very shocked,” Kenney said, “I was very scared and didn’t really know what to think. I was panicked and I just tried to get home as fast as I could so I could show my parents.”
Kenney told her grandmother about the message, and her grandmother contacted the San Bernardino Sherriff’s Department. An officer came to their house and listened to their story, but they were then told that the incident was in the hands of the school because that is where the incident would take place. The suspect did not include details about how the threat would be carried out, further complicating police involvement.
The school was notified of the incident by Kenney’s parents. The night after Kenny’s friend received the original message, Kenney was contacted by the suspect directly. Using the mobile messenger app “Kik”, the suspect created an anonymous account that allowed him to send messages without revealing his identity.
The suspect admitted to Kenney that he was a student at her school and said it was supposed to be a “joke.” He then tried to play a guessing game with Kenney, asking her to name people she thought would threaten her. Kenney refused, and the suspect became more and more agitated as the situation started to spiral out of his control. He repeatedly asked Kenney to tell everyone that it was a joke and that he didn’t think “it would go far”. At one point, he even became suicidal and said he, “Ok please I’m having suicidal thoughts now. I’m in so much pressure.”
Kenney messaged the suspect back-and-forth until he gave her his name. Due to the suspect being a minor, Victor Valley News will not be publishing his name. The school was alerted when this new information was discovered and the suspect was allegedly suspended for five days.
Kenney said her and the student accused of sending the threatening messages are not friends, and have had no prior encounters.
Fearing for her life and safety, Kenney has not returned to school since she received the first message, and her grades are now beginning to fall.
The victim’s father, Dr. Rick Kenney, spoke with Victor Valley news to express his concerns over the situation.
When asked how he felt when he first heard about a threat against his daughter’s life, he said, “We were terrified. I mean my wife was crying and shaking. I mean, how would any parent react with a threat on their child’s life? With all the school violence now, it’s very scary.”
Dr. Kenney and his wife, Trina Kenney, sat down for an official meeting at the school. The school’s dean, principal, District Chief, counselor and Chief of school police were in attendance. The Kenneys were told that the school had done all it could do for the situation.
“I don’t think a five-day suspension is all they can do,” Dr. Kenney stated.
“I can’t understand why they’re not taking this seriously. They get expelled for fights. They get expelled for drugs. But you don’t get expelled for death threats? I am so disappointed. I’m so disgusted. I feel like they’re just sweeping this under the rug,” continued Dr. Kenney, “My daughter is a victim, and she shouldn’t be continued to be victimized by the school. The Dean of Students is really just downplaying this. I was appalled; my wife was appalled.”
With his daughter safely at home, her school work is now suffering as she is not in class to complete assignments.
“She was just starting to put things together as a young student in her high school career and now this happened. No offer has been made to help with tutoring,” the frustrated father explained.
Dr. Kenney feels like the school’s chain of communication is broken from the top down, saying he feels that some teachers are not aware of why is daughter is no longer in class.
Stating he feels powerless against such a big organization, his daughter took to social media to ensure their story was heard. Serrano High School, as well as individuals on social media, tried to have the victim’s stop sharing their story and creating such a commotion in the community. Many commenters stated they called either the high school or Snowline Joint Unified School District to raise concerns.
Dr. Kenney went on to say, “At this point, as parents, we really don’t know what to do. They gave us no information on how to go forward.”
He continued, speaking to parents in the community, “Any parent that currently has a child in Serrano should be outraged. This threat isn’t just to my daughter; she happened to be a random victim. Any child is susceptible to this threat. They need to make their voices heard. Action must be taken. They have a responsibility when they take our children onto their campus. Every parent should wonder, ‘What is the school district going to do when it happens to their child.’ It becomes a policy issue now. As a parent, as a society, as a school district, this cannot be tolerated. I know this is wrong.”
Hoping to send his daughter back to a safe learning environment soon, Dr. Kenney is unsure of what school she will end up at if her current school continues failing to further deal with the safety concerns he has. Another student commented on social media saying she no longer felt safe at the school and wanted to go home after learning of the incident.
Victor Valley News contacted Serrano High School and the Snowline Joint Unified School District for comment. Serrano High School failed to return a call by the time of publishing for this article. Snowline Joint Unified School District attempted to return our call hours after being contacted, but there were issues with the phone connection so they eventually released a statement online from the superintendent. That statement is included in full below:
“A Message from the Superintendent
On November 4, 2014, the administration at Serrano High School was made aware of an anonymous threat that had been directed to a student via social media over the previous weekend, and that the threat had been reported to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. It was determined the next day that the source of the threat was another student at the school. At that point, an investigation into the circumstances was begun and disciplinary proceedings as stipulated by Education Code initiated. Additionally, Snowline Joint Unified School District Police initiated a criminal investigation into the incident.
Law precludes public school districts from disclosing confidential information regarding specific actions taken in such circumstances. However, the safety of all students in Snowline schools is always paramount in every circumstance. Please address specific concerns regarding your child directly to your child’s school and work collaboratively to resolve those concerns.
Finally, while social media and the internet provide access to invaluable information and forms of communication for all of us, they must be utilized responsibly as well. Thoughtfulness in considering the impact of communications posted via social media and other electronic means involves careful consideration for all of us as we engage in 21st Century technologies.
Snowline Joint Unified School District
P.O. Box 296000
4075 Nielson Rd.
Phelan, CA 92329-6000
Phone: 760-868-5817 x7225
In closing, Dr. Kennedy stated, “We aren’t out for a lynching. We are out for justice and safety. My daughter is so distraught. I don’t know how many nights she has been crying over this. Its already been two weeks.”
For now, Jezriel Kenney will be staying locked safely in the confines of her home, while her alleged aggressor freely walks the halls with the other students of Serrano High School.
If you have experienced a similar incident with Snowline Joint Unified School District or another area school district, please let us know in the comments below.
We would also like to hear your thoughts about the current situation. If you have a child who is currently attending Serrano High School, please let us know how you would like to see things be handled in the future.
For those wishing to contact the school or the district, their contact information is as follows:
Serrano High School
9292 Sheep Creek Road, Phelan, CA 92371
(760) 868-3222 Phone | (760) 868-3803 Fax
Snowline Joint Unified School District
4075 Nielson Road, Phelan, CA 92371
(760) 868-5817 Phone
Serrano High School and Snowline Joint Unified School District are invited to contact Victor Valley News if they have any information they would like to share. Information will be updated as it becomes available.
A closing reminder to all: Always take death threats and/or suicidal talks seriously. Report the person immediately to local law enforcement before they become a danger to themselves or others. Never joke about hurting yourself or others; mental health issues can be very serious and should be treated with an appropriate reaction.
Arrow Santos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Arrow_VVNews
*Editors note: These are screen shots of the conversation between the victim, the suspect, and the original message to the victim’s friend. The message/screenshot containing the suspect’s name has been withheld due to the suspect being a minor. The victim’s parents have requested that the victim’s name not be withheld (she is also a minor), so that people can learn of her story.*