School Climate & Safety

In Wake of Va. Tech. Shootings, Threats Force K-12 Lock-Downs, Evacuations

By The Associated Press — April 18, 2007 4 min read
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Campus threats forced lock-downs and evacuations at middle schools, high schools, and universities in at least 10 states yesterday following the Monday shooting rampage at Virginia Tech that killed 33 people.

Threats in Louisiana, Montana and Washington state directly mentioned the massacre in Virginia, while reports of suspicious activity in Arizona, Michigan, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas led to lock-downs and evacuations.

In Louisiana, parents picked up hundreds of students from Bogalusa’s high school and middle school amid reports that a man had been arrested Tuesday morning for threatening a mass killing in a note that alluded to the murders at Virginia Tech.

Bogalusa Schools Superintendent Jerry Payne said both schools were locked down and police arrested a 53-year-old man who allegedly made the threat in a note he gave to a student headed to the private Bowling Green School in Franklinton. Both towns are in southeastern Louisiana.

“The note referred to what happened at Virginia Tech,” Mr. Payne said. “It said something like, ‘If you think that was bad, then you haven’t seen anything yet.”

A Great Falls, Mont., high school was locked down for a time Tuesday after a threatening note was found in a girls’ bathroom.

A student found the threatening note at about 12:15 p.m. on a toilet paper dispenser. It stated, “the shooting would start at Great Falls High at 12:30 and it would be worse than Virginia Tech,” Assistant Superintendent Dick Kuntz said. He said it was a hoax.

Threatening Notes

Washington State University’s branch campus in Vancouver was evacuated because of graffiti discovered in a campus restroom threatened harm likened to the Virginia slayings around 8 p.m., around the time a conference on the Patriot Act and the war on terror was scheduled, authorities said. The event was to be rescheduled.

In Rapid City, S.D., schools were locked down after receiving reports of a man with a gun in a parking lot at Central High. No shots were fired and no injuries were reported, police said. The high school students were taken to the nearby Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, where parents were allowed to pick up their children.

Online Resources

An interactive map from CBSNews.com provides a detailed timeline and description of U.S. school shootings since 1997.

The Poynter Institute offers specific resources and news sources on school shootings from 1997-2007.

The Casey Journalism Center on Children and Families publishes a wealth of resources on school shootings and violence.

The White House has posted resources and information from the Conference on School Safety, convened by President Bush in October 2006 following the shootings at an Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster County, Pa.

The online resource, Keep Schools Safe, provides resources for school administrators, parents, and students on the issues of school safety and security.

In Austin, authorities evacuated buildings at St. Edward’s University after a threatening note was found, a school official said.

Police secured the campus perimeter and were searching the buildings, St. Edward’s University spokeswoman Mischelle Amador said. She declined to say where the note was found and said its contents were “nonspecific.”

Amador said the university’s reaction was not influenced by Monday’s attack at Virginia Tech.

“No matter what day or when this would have happened, we will always take the necessary precautions to protect our students, our faculty, our staff, the entire university community,” she said.

Seven North Dakota State University buildings in Fargo were evacuated after a duffel bag was found outside a bus shelter in the main part of the campus. NDSU spokesman Dave Wahlberg said the shootings in Virginia reinforced the need to “err on the side of safety.”

In Bloomfield Hills, Mich., police attributed a 30-minute lock-down at the exclusive Cranbrook Schools complex in response to jittery nerves following the Virginia slayings.

School officials called police after parents and students reported spotting a 6-foot-tall man in a skirt, high heels, lipstick and a blond wig near a school drop-off area outside Cranbrook’s Kings-wood Upper School, Lt. Paul Myszenski said. Police were unable to find anyone meeting the man’s description.

Telephone Bomb Threat

At the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, officials ordered three campus administration buildings evacuated for almost two hours Tuesday morning in response to a telephone bomb threat. The city’s bomb squad searched the buildings but found nothing, campus spokesman Chuck Cantrell said.

Cantrell said there was no reason to believe the bogus threat was related to the shootings at Virginia Tech, but “we just chose to err on the side of caution today.”

In Arizona, classes were canceled at Estrella Mountain Community College in Avondale, a suburb of Phoenix, after a note threatening a shooting was delivered via intercampus mail.

Avondale police conferred with campus officers and staff and decided the threat was “serious and immediate” and ordered the evacuation, said Amy Boulton, a police spokeswoman. Officers searched the campus looking for evidence or any threat but nothing was found, Boulton said.

A scare at the University of Oklahoma at Norman started with a report of a man spotted on cam-pus carrying a suspicious object, officials said.

The man was carrying an umbrella, not a weapon, and he later identified himself to authorities, University of Oklahoma President David Boren said in a statement. Boren initially had said the person was believed to carrying a yoga mat.

“We now consider the matter closed,” Boren said. “We always want to err on the side of caution in a situation like this.”

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