Brett Luster and Bob Strickley Telegraph staff reporters
April 1, 2014
ROXANA — A text falsely alleging shots fired at Roxana High School caused the school to go into lockdown and several agencies to respond to the school’s campus and clear the threat Tuesday afternoon.
Roxana Police Chief Will Cunningham said the text message was sent to a family member of the sender and that family member immediately informed authorities.
“Local responders took action immediately to initiate the lockdown procedures. Local responders from all area police forces were on campus very quickly to address the situation. The student was found and it is confirmed that there were no shots fired,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham said the call came in around 1:08 p.m. Students reported receiving word of the lockdown via the school’s public address system at around the same time. The lockdown was lifted at approximately 2:08 p.m., according the students.
Roxana School District Superintendent Debra Kreutztrager said authorities from Roxana, Wood River, South Roxana, Hamel, Hartford, Bethalto, Madison County, Illinois State Police, Granite City, East Alton and potentially more responded to the school to investigate the threat.
“With the numerous response teams, they were able to quickly confirm that there were no shots fired and all student and staff were secured,” Kreutztrager said. “We appreciate the cooperation and patience from our families who worked with the responders throughout the situation.”
Kreutztrager also praised the actions of her staff.
“We regularly do drills and staff are trained to respond. Our staff are to be commended for how they followed the lockdown procedures today,” she said.
Scanner traffic indicated authorities were responding at approximately 1:15 p.m. to the school. Police at the scene told The Telegraph three individuals were in custody, but Cunningham said there was only one person of interest and did not have further information on reports of two other students being brought into custody.
“Right now we have at least one person of interest that is speaking with our detectives,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham also would not provide the content of the offending text message, citing the information is part of an ongoing investigation. He also would not comment on potential charges against the student.
After the lockdown was lifted, students were released at the normal dismissal time of 2:40 p.m. However, after school athletic events were canceled.
Kreutztrager said she had no indication that students would be fearful of returning to school after Wednesday’s events.
“I think our students, because we do the drills, for some today, they most likely thought we were in a drill situation because we have been through the drill just like we would if there was an actual event,” she said. “I know that with the response and the time, students realize we communicated with them, what the situation was today, so I think they will feel confident to come back. We haven’t had any indication at this point that there are any concerns from the kiddos about returning to school.”
Kreutztrager and Cunningham did not immediately know of any potential discipline the sender of the text message could face, and indicated a followup meeting would determine the course of action.
Cunningham did have a message for other students that would consider a hoax of this kind.
“This is not the direction to go. This is a very serious incident. This is something that all local responders and schools are trained for. To think that someone would connive of a prank like this is a very serious mistake,” Cunningham said.
Kreutztrager said each of the schools in the district drill extensively for this sort of situation.
“Each building does a different number of drills,” she said. “We are very fortunate because the local responders participate in our drills, so with our large campus they are familiar with our campus and know our buildings. They come in and, even over Christmas break, do this same drill with the responders on the campus.”
Kreutztrager also said a review will be held with responders and school administrators on what lockdown protocols can be improved.
Following the incident, students said the situation was handled in a calm and orderly manner.
Erica Griggs, 16, was in the nurse’s office when she heard administrators call for a lockdown repeatedly over the school intercom.
She said the nurse rushed her and other students into a back room and turned off all lights and locked the doors.
“I mean, yeah, it was really scary not knowing what really was going on,” said Griggs, adding she wasn’t sure exactly why the lockdown had been implemented.
She said she felt faculty responded well and that the experience of similar drills seemed to calm the situation.
Most of her peers knew “exactly what to do” and had the threat been serious they would have been conditioned to handle it, according to Griggs.
In the end, Griggs said she just glad no one was hurt.
Brett Luster can be reached at 618-463-2570 and on Twitter @bdluster. Bob Strickley can be reached at 618-463-2560 and on Twitter @rjstrickleyjr.