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Police Say 9/11 Bomb Threat at Middle School Is a Student Prank

Parents of students at Las Flores in Rancho Santa Margarita get reassuring messages. Deputies will be on two campuses today.

September 11, 2003|Dave McKibben | Times Staff Writer

A threat to bomb a Rancho Santa Margarita middle school on Sept. 11, scribbled on a school bathroom toilet paper holder a week ago, has been dismissed by investigators as a student prank. But it nevertheless prompted school officials to reassure parents that the campus will be safe today.

Letters, e-mails and phone messages went out to parents of students at Las Flores Middle School, where the note was found, and the adjacent Las Flores Elementary School, notifying them that Orange County sheriff's investigators concluded the graffiti message was a hoax.

But because of anxieties created by the ominous reference to the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, school officials alerted parents about the incident.

"Before, these kind of things used to be considered childish pranks, but now, in this post- 9/11 era, we have to consider it and even overreact," Capistrano Unified spokesman David Smollar said. "We felt compelled to react because the rumor mill had started among parents."

A letter from Las Flores Middle School principal Holly Feldt promised parents that campus bathrooms are closely monitored and that sheriff's deputies will be visible at both schools today.

"Ten years ago, we would have said, 'OK, get the custodian here to erase it and move on,' " Feldt said. "But these are different times we're living in."

Capistrano Unified Supt. James A. Fleming said: "The student responsible for this prank will be found and will be expelled."

The graffiti was discovered a day after school officials held a discipline assembly where, among other issues, students were warned about the consequences of making threats toward the school.

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