The Wantagh High School and Middle School lock-in, due to a potential gun threat, took place on November 8. A Wantagh High School teacher overheard a comment by a student where the word gun was used right after homeroom. Since the hallway was crowded at that time, the student and the context of the conversation could not be identified.
After discussing the issue and deciding not to take the comment lightly, Mrs. Breivogel, Wantagh High School’s Principal, acting with an abundance of caution, notified the Nassau County Police department.
The Police responded within minutes. Upon their preliminary investigation, the police determined that there was no imminent threat and recommended that Mrs. Breivogel announce a lock-in drill was necessary. This would allow the police to conduct a thorough search of school grounds and student lockers to assure that there was indeed no weapon or threat. For about two hours, the students of the high school and middle school stayed in their classrooms until the police gave the all clear, after no weapons were found.
During the entire lock-in, students were tweeting about the incident further adding to the miscommunication and the angst of the school community. Parents were receiving text messages from their children with whatever little information they had, whether is was verified or not.
Throughout this event, high school administrators were focused on assisting the police and assuring the students’ safety. Multiple news reporters, from various media outlets, arrived, including news helicopters that hovered over the campus. Parents and reporters anxiously waited outside for there to be news from officials.
Many parents were upset that they were not notified earlier. Most parents admitted to getting the news from their children texting them from school.
“I definitely think we should have been notified instead of hearing our kids call us and tell us they’re scared,” said Debby Bruno, parent of a 9th grader, in an Eyewitness (ABC) News article.
Once an organized search was in progress and the facts were clearer, the decision was made to put out a connect ed message to the student homes. This process can take upwards of 30 minutes to program, dictate and send. Wantagh’s administration is in the process of reviewing and updating its emergency communication outreach with the desire to institute a more speedy and efficient fact-based emergency contact procedure.
In the aftermath, all students are safe. District officials will use this incident to make themselves better prepared if a more serious or similar situation were to arise. Students have learned a lesson, too: Speak and tweet with intention. It’s likely that from now on, whether students talk on twitter or in the hallways, they will think about what they are saying and how it can be perceived.