No community wants its schools under lockdown, closed off from concerned parents and under threat from some unknown source. But if faced with that very scary reality, a community would want the kind of action we witnessed yesterday when the unthinkable actually unfolded in Clinton City Schools.
To a person, those within the school system, the Clinton Police Department, the Sampson County Information Technology department, the school system’s IT department and the county’s 911 center are to be commended for quick action, cool heads and focused attention, all which led to a peaceful end to what could have been far worse.
It began at 11:46 a.m. Tuesday when city police were notified by 911 staff of a threat to an unknown school in Sampson. The message came from an online crisis center and stated that “a student had a gun in a book bag with plans to use the weapon.” There was no weapon found, but four “persons of interest” were identified in connection with the threat.
Most importantly no one was harmed.
This could not have been an easy situation to face for any of those involved, including students who witnessed a classroom-by-classroom search as officers, working with IT staff, narrowed down which school the computer used to send the message was housed, and parents who, despite understandable urgings not to panic or head to the schools, showed up any way, frightened and wanting their children.
While scary, the situation could not have been handled any better, perhaps a clear indication that practiced drills by each of the organizations involved made a difference in helping staff think on their feet, even as they worked fast and furious to hone in on where the threat came from Tuesday.
What the IT departments did in locating the computer is remarkable work, particularly given the small staff each has. And what teachers did by following rules set out by principals at the beginning of the school year, proved valuable as well.
Officers, too, handled the situation with the utmost caution laced with great concern for the youngsters, making a frightening situation as normal as possible.
Every move the officers made, in the classrooms, by keeping an eye on the other schools, in handling the students and parents and in tracking down the computer, was done strategically, professionally and with great care.
School officials, too, worked diligently, trying to alert parents to the situation as quickly as possible without panicking them or bringing pandemonium to the one place it wasn’t need — the schools.
Everyone worked together and the end result was exactly what one hopes and prays for when word begins to spread that a school has been locked down and a threat has been determined.
While we know some parents were upset that they couldn’t get their children when they arrived at school, we hope they understand that the procedures put in place weren’t there to harm but to help.
In a crisis situation, things have to change; commands have to be followed and rules cannot be broken simply because we feel they should be on a case-by-case basis.
School officials and police are in charge, know what they are doing and are out to protect every child, every teacher, every employee.
We hope what happened Tuesday never occurs in our schools again. And while we can’t predict that any more than we can predict whether an even scarier situation might happen in the future, one thing is for sure, we are blessed to have the men and women on the ground here who can handle it.