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Officials from three school districts in northern Kern County have canceled or relocated after-school activities and athletics this week in response to a spate of recent gang-related violence in the region.
McFarland Unified, Delano Joint Union High and Wasco Union High have all canceled athletics and other activities this week following a series of shootings and slayings in the communities near the borders of Kern and Tulare counties.
Both law enforcement and school officials have stated that the recent shootings have not had any connection to local schools. However, social media posts threatening violence in the community have made the school communities uneasy, officials said.
Delano Police Chief Tyson Davis said that the Delano Police Department has reviewed and investigated posts threatening violence in the community, but none of them are credible. That includes someone anonymously airdropping a photo of a gun to a student with a threat of violence at a Delano school. He noted that there have been no homicides inside Delano’s city limits this year.
Parents in Delano have expressed concern about their students’ safety, said Rene Ayon, the director of student services for the district. The Delano Police Department has assured them it would be safe to hold activities, but the district has decided to cancel or reschedule activities for the week “out of an abundance of caution.”
“Social media does add a layer of panic,” said McFarland Unified Superintendent Samuel Aaron Resendez.
Northern Kern County has long been marked as a dividing line between northern and southern gangs. Delano has been affiliated with the northern gangs, and McFarland with southern gangs, said Davis.
The precipitating event for the schools’ decision was a deadly drive-by shooting on Monday. Two people were killed and two others wounded 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.
A concern about retaliatory violence and other recent shootings in McFarland over the past few weeks prompted McFarland Unified Superintendent Resendez to announce on Tuesday that it would be canceling all after-school activities for the remainder of the week. That includes a Friday night football game against Robert F. Kennedy High School in Delano, junior high athletics, volleyball and Kern Avenue Elementary’s fall carnival. High school students have also not been allowed to leave campus for lunch this week.
“When you zoom out and look at our region — from Shafter, Wasco, McFarland, Pixley and Richgrove — there have been a lot of recent violent incidents and shootings,” Resendez said.
Resendez said that he found the story of two 15-year-old boys in Pixley being shot in a drive-by last Friday particularly troubling. One of the boys was killed, according to a report from ABC30.
Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux told the station that four people were killed and seven were injured in shootings related to gangs and drugs within the span of one week beginning on Oct. 4. Besides Pixley and unincorporated Delano, there were shootings in Orosi and Woodville.
The Kern County Sheriff’s Department said that it was investigating shootings in Wasco this week. A shooting on Tuesday hospitalized a man. On Wednesday, a victim was shot at but was not injured. Officials said there were no credible threats to schools.
“Local deputies are working closely with school and city officials in Wasco in the event that the school(s) choose to resume extracurricular activities,” sheriff’s officials said, in a statement.
Delano Joint Unified High and Wasco Union High announced on Thursday they would also be canceling or relocating 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 southeastern Kern County. A game in Wasco has been canceled for this week, and athletic practices are also canceled, according to Ayon.
Wasco Union High announced on Thursday morning that all athletic games and practices would 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 on Thursday.
Next Friday, McFarland High School is scheduled to play Delano High School for its homecoming game. Officials from Delano Joint Union and McFarland Unified school districts said they will reassess whether the cancelation, moving and rescheduling of athletics and other school activities will continue into next week.
“We’re taking it one day at a time and allowing [law enforcement] to take the lead and provide us with the latest information,” Ayon said.
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