The Washington School District placed all of its in-town schools on lockdown for more than a hour Tuesday afternoon as police searched for a man who fled on foot after being pulled over by a Franklin County sheriff’s deputy.
Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer said the incident occurred near Washington West Elementary, but no threat was made directly toward the school.
“As a precaution, we locked down all of our in-town schools,” VanLeer told The Missourian. “Our emergency procedures went very well. I’m very happy of how our staff responded.”
The man, who was reported to be carrying a gun, was found on a deck of a home off Holtgrewe Road and taken into custody without incident.
When he was arrested shortly after 1 p.m. He did not have a weapon. Deputies were searching the area for the gun.
VanLeer and Assistant Superintendent Brendan Mahon both went to the Washington West campus to assist staff there. Several Washington police officers also were dispatched to the school.
The district’s lockdown procedures require all doors to be locked, including classroom doors. Lights also are turned off and students are moved to a wall with no windows until given the all clear from school officials.
Call Blast to Parents
VanLeer said a call blast went out to parents about 1:26 p.m. informing them a lockdown had taken place and was lifted without any incident.
“It’s very difficult to communicate with parents in the moment because we are busy executing our safety plans and generally don’t have time until the situation has been cleared,” she said. “But everything went as we practiced it. I’m very proud of our staff. They all knew what to do.”
The superintendent said schools around the country are “super sensitive” following last Friday’s tragic school shooting that left 20 students and six others in a Connecticut elementary school dead.
“We took all precautions as we should,” she said. “But of course there is a real fear of copycat shootings and that has everyone on edge.”
VanLeer said Washington High School and Middle School were locked down, but classroom doors were not locked.
“Our safety procedures are a little different in the elementary school because of the age of students and the fact that they go out for recess and their activities are different,” she said.
On Monday, two St. Louis County school districts also were forced to go on lockdown.
Hanna Woods Elementary School, Southwest Middle School, Parkway South High School and Wren Hollow Elementary School locked their doors shortly before 5 p.m. Monday and would not let anyone enter the schools as a precaution after a call was made to police about a suicidal man in a wooded area.
Students inside the schools for after-school activities were allowed to leave if a parent was present.
The man was eventually convinced to come out of the woods. He then led them back into the woods to retrieve the gun.
A trespasser also was reported on the roof of Bayless High School Monday morning. The unarmed woman was threatening suicide.