First responders and school officials at a meeting Monday addressed concerns about the response to last month’s hoax school shooting call to Lewis and Clark High School.
Changes to lockdown and school shooting response will be implemented district wide, not just at Lewis and Clark, officials said. Those changes include more communication between dispatch and schools in such incidents, adding extra training for teachers and making it easier for officers to access buildings on campus.
On Dec. 9, a hoax school shooting call terrified parents and students as police rushed into the school commons before principal Ivan Corley had been notified of the call. Some students were told by police to flee the building, while others were locked down.
“I was the most scared that I have ever been in my life,” one parent said.
Spokane police officials and Spokane Public Schools staff addressed those parent concerns, outlined areas for improvement and took questions at the community meeting attended by about 50 people in the LC auditorium.
Lt. Rich Meyer, the incident commander for the hoax call, said officers were going through the school doors within less than two minutes of the call coming into dispatch.
“Every second matters,” Myer said.
Within eight minutes of that call, nearly 70 officers from a host of regional agencies were responding, Myer said.
Because officers didn’t find a threat, they cleared each room to make sure they didn’t miss anything, Myer said.
Some parents said gun muzzles were pointed at their students as classrooms were cleared. Assistant Chief Justin Lundgren said officers are trained to hold at the low ready position, in which officers hold their guns out but down so they can quickly adjust if a threat emerges.
“This was happening very quickly,” Lundgren said.
“Anytime that someone is coming at you with a gun, the muzzle looks about that big around,” he said gesturing to make a large oval with his hands, ” and it looks like it’s pointed at you.”
No officers reported pointing their weapons at people, Meyer said. Students were asked to fill out a form and report if an officer pointed a weapon at them.
One parent was concerned at the amount of gear officers were wearing. He said his daughter said it looked fake.
Police said officers will arrive quickly and be wearing different things depending on the agency, but all officers will have a vest that identifies them by agency reading something like “police” or “FBI.”
Students will not be asked to open the door to their classroom, police said in response to some parent questions. Instead, officers will enter the room when appropriate.
Since the call came in during a lunch period, some students evacuated, fleeing to their designated evacuation spot, while others went into lockdown.
New school plans will have a school official at evacuations locations in case students evacuate rather than lockdown.
The 911 call appeared to have come from the school, so dispatch didn’t call the school to alert them.
Following this incident, dispatch will call the school to help verify what’s going on and put the school into lockdown, officials said.
The school district also will have keys ready for officers to help them get into classrooms more quickly. Additional trainings and materials, including scripts for teachers, will be available for school district staff in the near future.
The district is testing a wailing noise that will hopefully cut through student chatter before an announcement from the principal in a lockdown situation.
Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said surgeries at all area hospitals were immediately paused and an alert went out to make sure they were prepared for a mass casualty event.
“We were all prepared for a worst-case scenario,” Schaeffer said. “Everything was primed and ready to go, and thank goodness we didn’t need that.”
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