School closed due to security threat, suspect detained

School closed due to security threat, suspect detained

An instagram post mentions Harvard-Westlake by name. Authorities decided to close school Friday after seeing the post Thursday evening.

Both the Upper School and Middle School closed Friday due to a security threat from a social media post by former NFL player Jonathan Martin ’08.

Police detained Martin Friday afternoon, President Rick Commons said. He has since been moved to a mental health facility, according to a police report. 

The school’s emergency notification system sent out an alert to students shortly after 7 a.m. announcing that school would be closed. On-and off-campus events will take place as scheduled this weekend and school will open on Monday, according to an update sent to students Friday night.

The community will gather together during Activities period on Monday, Day 2, Head of Upper School Laura Ross said in an email to students. Students should refer any media inquiries to the Office of the President or to the Head of Communications and those expecting visitors to campus next week must notify security in advance at usvisitor@hw.com, the email said. 

Commons confirmed that the Instagram post by the verified account @jmart from Thursday evening is what triggered the school to close.

“When you’re a bully victim & a coward, your options are suicide, or revenge” the post reads. 

Along with a shotgun and ammunition, the post included the hashtag #HarvardWestlake. 

Martin left the NFL after he accused Miami Dolphins teammates Richie Incognito and Mike Pouncey, who were tagged on his post, of harassment in 2013, leading to an NFL investigation. The report of the investigation said that the teammates engaged in a pattern of harassment directed against Martin and that Martin was harassed in middle and high school, according to ESPN.

Following his departure, Martin posted on Facebook and Twitter detailing the struggles he faced throughout his high school and football careers, including a suicide attempt. In the post he said he was uncomfortable being “one of just a handful of minorities in elite private schools.”

In response to the post found Thursday evening, the school released a statement explaining why officials called for a school closure. 

“Out of abundance of caution, and because the safety of our students, faculty, and staff is our top priority, we made the decision to close school today,” the statement said. “We are working closely with law enforcement and will share more information when we are able.” 

The school’s private security team worked with the Los Angeles Police Department, which was stationed on both campuses, Commons said in an email to the school community. 

“With these precautions in place, we believe there is no imminent threat to our campuses or our school community,” Commons said in the email. 

All on-campus activities at both campuses were canceled Friday, including athletic practices and the middle school orchestra concert scheduled for Friday night, according to the email. 

Students were instructed to stay home by a message from the school’s emergency notification system Friday morning.

“Students already on campus will be supervised and protected in designated areas until parents can make arrangements to pick them up or for them to return home safely,” the notification said. 

Students who ride the bus were taken to school and held in safe areas until they can be picked up, and students who drive themselves to school were redirected home.

“We apologize for the short notice; the safety of our students is our highest priority,” the notification said. 

Those on campus were directed to stay in the lounge until they could be picked up, Chronicle Executive Editor Elly Choi ’18, who was dropped off at school by a parent, said. Dean and summer school coordinator Lynn Miller and math department head Kent Nealis took charge of signing students in and out and security guards walked parents and students from the lounge to their cars, Choi said. 

“The situation was pretty scary because I had no idea what was going on but the faculty and staff were so helpful and caring and made everyone feel safe,” Choi said. 

Students have received updates from the emergency notification system throughout the day.

“This has been a concerning day for everyone in the HW community,” the latest message from Commons said. “Thank you for your patience and support as we worked to keep our community safe. Law enforcement has been effective managing the situation, and we are grateful to them for their diligence.”

The alert Friday night told faculty, staff and students to check their emails over the weekend for messages from division heads about special assemblies. 

The incident comes a week after 17 people were killed by a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

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