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School threats | One district's report first, investigate later policy

A former Torrey Pines High School student who says he was falsely accused of posting a threat on Snapchat says the stigma has followed him to college.

Marcella Lee, Dorian Hargrove, John Stinebaugh

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Published: 11:27 PM PST February 23, 2023
Updated: 11:30 PM PST February 23, 2023

Five years have passed, but the nicknames and the ribbing from his college swim teammates and friends persist. 

"Sandy" is what they call the former Torrey Pines High graduate; a moniker that was given to him in reference to Sandy Hook, the name of the Newton, Connecticut elementary school where a 20-year-old shooter shot and killed 20 children and six school staffers in December of 2012. 

For the 22-year-old college student, who CBS 8 has agreed to keep confidential and will refer to him as "John" for the story, he says San Dieguito Union High School District's administrators' decision to report him as a potential school shooter and its failure to assess and investigate the Snapchat message that someone posted from his phone on January 24, 2018, continues to haunt him.

The police arriving in his room as he lay in bed, his arrest that night, his expulsion, the fight to overturn it, and the quest to clear his name is now a permanent fixture in his mind, a memory effortlessly and in a moment's notice can resurface in an instant.

John is now speaking out, months after CBS 8 reported on a 12-year-old boy who the District Attorney is charging with a felony terror threat for posting a message on Snapchat that his principal and San Dieguito Union High School District officials deemed was a threat. The boy's mother is now suing the school district for what she says was not a threat but was a silly message from a preteen on social media.

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