veritas exquirere

Talon

veritas exquirere

Talon

veritas exquirere

Talon

Behind the curtain

How Oak Park High School handles and executes threats
Behind the curtain
Caroline Bi

At 11:39 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 5, OPHS received an anonymous call lasting less than 15 seconds, threatening to bomb the school property if the school did not pay them $30,000. The situation was handled quickly; the district and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office determined the threat was not credible.

The spontaneous call brought about many questions in the community. Why was our school targeted? How did the district determine the threat not to be credible? How is OPHS prepared for other unpredictable situations? 

Bradley Benioff, third-year Director of Student Support and School Safety, Mat McClenahan, principal of OPHS and Dr. Jeff Davis, superintendent of the district, provides in-depth answers to all these questions and more.

Benioff wrote in an email that the probability of OPHS being targeted for threats is low.

“I would estimate that we have one or two school-wide threats per year,” Benioff wrote. “We always have law enforcement lead the investigations of these. We have had threats or incidents in the last few years, but none have been determined to be credible.” 

Davis assures the community that Oak Park is in safe hands under the protection of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department, with district personnel feeling assured in the department’s experience.

“We all have such a good relationship that we all have their cell phone numbers…I basically have [them] on speed dial on my phone…We’re very confident in their abilities, we’re also confident in our abilities, and we have a lot of collective experience,” Davis said.

Last school year, the Ventura County Office of Education invited all the Ventura County and Los Virgenes school districts to train with the Secret Service and FBI. Many of these training sessions were attended by Benioff, Davis and McClenahan. The training taught the district new ways to defend oneself and inspired Davis to implement the lessons into a regular school day.

“I went to four or five, Mr. Benioff went to every single one…” Davis said. “We got wonderful training, they taught us all kinds of things that…we’ll be implementing more. 

One of the most important aspects Davis, Benioff and McClenahan took from the training was the phrase, ‘If You See Something, Say Something Now.’

“If you can’t catch somebody on the phone, send them an email. Any way you can to communicate with the administrators or actually any adult at the school,” Davis said. “Any adult [will] give the information to the administrators, it will really reduce the possibility of something bad happening.”

Davis later wrote through Parent Square that OPHS’s school counselors and principals are always available to help the students.

Benioff also emphasizes Davis’s word on the slogan that brings attention to an issue: withholding important information can harm the safety of the people around you. He also emphasizes how connection with school programs is vital to maintaining safety. 

“There was the slogan repeated by the FBI/Secret Service trainers to have the public ‘See Something, Say Something, NOW!” Benioff wrote. “The other aspect of this is that connections with students is critical; having students involved with school and co-curricular activities is essential to having students feel safe and included.”

Regarding the anonymous call, Davis and McClenahan said that the Ventura County Department arrived in less than 20 minutes. Their speedy arrival confirmed the district’s strong partnership with OPHS, the district and the county.

“I would say, probably from the time the call was answered to when the first of multiple law enforcement personnel arrived, [in] less than 20 minutes…we had 5 enforcement officers here. Five,” McClenahan said.

Continuing a school day after an unsettling threat is a tough decision for anyone. However, McClenahan confirms that when he was in this position, he felt very secure in his decision. 

“I was really sure after talking to everybody and looking at the facts that OPHS students and staff were safe” McClenahan said.

On any given day, something unexpected and unsettling may create chaos. However, the community can sleep well at night, knowing that OPUSD is prepared for any situation and  always to remember, if you see something, say something now.

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About the Contributors
Justine Picard, Senior Staff Writer

Class of 2026

Justine has been part of the Talon staff for 2 years. She has previously served as a Senior Staff Writer and enjoys writing news and graphic design pieces.

Caroline Bi, Senior Staff Artist
Class of 2026 Caroline has been part of the Talon staff for 2 years. She has previously served as a Staff Writer and enjoys writing feature pieces.
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