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Rumors lead to lock down at Mount Si

SNOQUALMIE — Last week school officials decided to

partially lock down Mount Si High after they heard rumors that an expelled

student might return to the school and cause trouble.

In response, school staff locked the exterior doors to the high school

— except for the main entrance — from 7:30 to 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 13.

"The principal makes a judgment as to the level of concern. This

case was to increase security, but no change in classes inside," said

Superintendent Dr. Rich McCullough. "It was

business as usual for all students and staff."

The added security measure stemmed from rumors that a

15-year-old boy, who was involved in a fight several days earlier and

subsequently expelled, was armed and planned on hurting someone, said Sgt.

Grant Stewart of the King County Sheriff's Office.

"All we had were some rumors, and we haven't even confirmed or

substantiated any teeth to those rumors," he said. "Nothing indicates there

was any kind of disturbance or retaliation plan. It's still under investigation."

Police found the boy unarmed at a friend's home that Wednesday

morning, which ended the school's partial lock down.

"We couldn't verify any of the rumors, but to be on the safe side,

we take all of that seriously," McCullough said. "One thing that is different

within the last several years, in the case of rumors that involve threats or

potential violence, we simply have to treat them like they're fact."

But this incident, as well as other cases around the nation, reminds

everyone that schools and surrounding communities aren't immune to

violent acts or threats.

"Schools are working hard and they've always worked hard to

keep their buildings safe," said Denise Fitch, the director of Safe and

Drug- Free Schools. "Schools are a microcosm of their community …

everybody has to work together to find a solution."

According to statistics, schools are still one of the safest places for

children, Fitch said. He added some of the ways students, staff and parents

can perpetuate harmony in schools are to teach respect for one another and

to keep the lines of communication open.

Fortunately, this case of the possibly disgruntled student turned out

to be just a rumor, but the school district is still poised to handle similar

situations in the future.

If there were an intruder in the school, McCullough said,

administrators are instructed to immediately make an announcement on the PA

system because in most instances, the publicity would make the

intruder want to flee. Or, if there is a high likelihood that students are in danger,

the principal might call for a full lock down.

"We would move the students away from the windows, block

visual access from the windows, and if there was an actual threat from the

exterior (flying objects), we'd have them bend down and crouch," McCullough said.

Stewart also advises parents to stay away from the school in the event of

a lock down. The best way for them to find out information about the

situation, Stewart said, is to either call the school district or the police

department.

"Until they get the information from local police that it's safe to go

to the school, they should stay away," he said. "We understand their concern

for their children, but as long as the school is locked down, their children

are safe."

Though there is always the possibility that something can go wrong

in the schools, McCullough said that he is confident that the Valley schools

are still a safe place to be.

"This is my 12th year in the district and we have not had an

intruder in any one of our schools, but we want to be prepared," he said. "We

are blessed to be in a small community where there's a level of familiarity

and intimacy that creates security."

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