REALM High School released students early Thursday due to a shooting threat. Photo: Nancy Rubin

REALM High School sent students home early Thursday after discovering a shooting threat scrawled in the boys’ bathroom, leaders of the Berkeley charter school said.

Staff noticed the threat around 9:30 a.m., Principal Jorge Melgoza wrote in an email sent to families at the school, which is located at 2023 Eighth St.

“It said something to the effect of, ‘I’m going to shoot this school up after lunchtime,’” said Victor Diaz, the director of REALM.

“We immediately notified Berkeley Police Department and they came out and advised us that a lock down was not necessary but that they would be visible in front of the school for the remainder of the day,” Melgoza’s email said. Even so, students were sent home at lunch, while some staff stayed behind, Diaz said.

BPD Sgt. Andrew Frankel said police received the call from the school around 10:30 a.m. Officers arrived on campus shortly after and left around 1:30 p.m., after students had gone home, he said.

REALM plans to open again on Friday, and Diaz said police will be stationed around campus then as well. Frankel declined to confirm the department’s plans.

He said BPD is continuing to investigate the threat.

“In this climate, we have to take it as a serious threat,” Diaz said. “At this stage, it’s too early to say whether or not it’s a hoax. People are on edge. I think there are some kids that may be using this as an opportunity to create anxiety on campus. But people are reacting very seriously to it — we believe now that anything could happen.”

Diaz said REALM, which also has a middle school campus at 1222 University Ave., has never received a shooting threat or dealt with gun violence on campus. The schools have never conducted an active-shooter drill, but the entire staff met last week to discuss plans to practice for a lockdown, Diaz said.

The threat comes the day after students around the country walked out of class to demand an end to gun violence, and to memorialize the 17 victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. REALM High School participated in the national day of action, and two teachers there plan to bring several students to the upcoming March For Our Lives in Washington, D.C., on March 24, Diaz said.

School leaders and students across the nation have been on high alert since the Florida tragedy. Berkeley High School received a mass shooting threat in the weeks after the incident as well. Berkeley Unified recently allocated $2 million for new school safety measures, and schools in the district have been holding and planning lockdown drills in response to the concerns.

This story was updated with information from the Berkeley Police Department. 

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Natalie Orenstein

Natalie Orenstein reports on housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. Natalie was a Berkeleyside staff reporter from early 2017 to May 2020. She had previously contributed to the site since 2012,...