North Kern County schools cancel after-school activities in response to wave of violence

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Credit: McFarland Unified School District

McFarland High School

Officials at three northern Kern County school districts canceled or moved after-school activities and athletics this week in response to a recent spate of gang-related violence in the area.

McFarland Unified, Delano Joint Union High and Wasco Union High all canceled athletics and other activities this week following a series of shootings and killings in communities near the Kern and Tulare county borders.

Law enforcement and school officials said the recent shootings had no connection to local schools. However, social media posts threatening community violence have left school communities uneasy, officials said.

Delano Police Chief Tyson Davis said the Delano Police Department reviewed and investigated messages threatening violence in the community, but none of them were credible. This includes someone anonymously dropping a photo of a gun to a student threatened with violence at a school in Delano. He noted that there have been no homicides inside Delano city limits this year.

Delano parents have expressed concern for the safety of their students, said Rene Ayon, director of student services for the district. The The Delano Police Department assured them it would be safe to hold activities, but the district decided to cancel or reschedule activities for the week “out of an abundance of caution.”

“Social media adds a layer of panic,” McFarland Unified Superintendent Samuel Aaron Resendez said.

North Kern County has long been marked as a dividing line between northern and southern gangs. Delano was affiliated with northern gangs and McFarland with southern gangs, Davis said.

The event that precipitated the schools’ decision was a fatal drive-by shooting on Monday. Two people were killed and two others injured in an unincorporated area of ​​Delano, according to the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department. One of the men killed was identified by the Tulare County Coroner as 21-year-old Ricardo Serrano III of Delano.

Concern over retaliatory violence and other recent shootings at McFarland in recent weeks prompted McFarland Unified Superintendent Resendez to announce Tuesday that he would be canceling all after-school activities for the remainder of the week. This includes a Friday night football game against Robert F. Kennedy High School in Delano, track and field games, volleyball games, and Kern Avenue Elementary’s Fall Carnival. High school students were also not allowed to leave campus for lunch this week.

When you zoom out and look at our area – of Shafter, Wasco, McFarland, Pixley and Richgrove – there have been a lot of violent incidents and shootings lately,” Resendez said.

Resendez said he found the story of two 15-year-old boys in Pixley shot dead in a drive-by last Friday particularly disturbing. One of the boys was killed, according to a report from ABC30.

Mike Boudreaux, Tulare County Sheriff said at the station that four people were killed and seven were injured in gang and drug-related shootings in the space of a week starting October 4. Besides Pixley and unincorporated Delano, there were shootings in Orosi and Woodville.

The Kern County Sheriff’s Department said it was investigating the shootings in Wasco this week. A shooting on Tuesday hospitalized a man. On Wednesday, a victim was shot but not injured. Officials said there were no credible threats against the schools.

“Local deputies are working closely with Wasco school and town officials in the event that the school or schools choose to resume after-school activities,” sheriff officials said, in a report.

Delano Joint Unified High and Wasco Union High announced Thursday that they will also be canceling or moving after-school activities this week. A football game that was scheduled to take place in Delano has been moved to Taft High, a town in southeast Kern County. A game at Wasco has been canceled for this week, and sports practices are also canceled, according to Ayon.

Wasco Union High announced Thursday morning that all sports games and practices will be canceled for the remainder of the week.

“In light of the recent violence in and around the community, the district has decided to cancel all athletic contests for the remainder of the week, including tonight’s home football game against Delano High School,” said a message to parents thursday.

Next Friday, McFarland High School is scheduled to face Delano High School in its return match. Delano Joint Union and McFarland Unified school district officials said they will reassess whether the cancellation, relocation and postponement of athletics and other school activities will continue next week.

“We take it one day at a time and allow [law enforcement] to take the lead and provide us with the latest information,” Ayon said.

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