Lockdown of several schools upsets parents

Events set off by report of gun at Hudson Middle School
Apr. 11, 2014 @ 08:26 AM

As police tried to track down someone who students at Hudson Middle School said was on campus with a gun, 11 schools in Caldwell County were placed on a so-called "soft" lockdown -- and that led to alarm and some anger among parents.

It turned out there had been no gun, but much of the reaction by parents focused on how they got the news -- either from the News-Topic's Facebook page or from their own children by phone.

Julie Bowman said in a comment on the News-Topic's Facebook post, "I want to know why the school has not called parents my kids go to Hudson Middle School, so I'm just really not very happy."

Jeannette Phillips Jestes posted, "Both of my kids go to Hudson Middle School, and I would have like to have known even if I couldn't do anything but pray. We get calls about delays, job fairs and other things this seems to be MORE important than those calls."

Superintendent Steve Stone said that the school system's policy calls for notifying parents only when there is a "hard" lockdown.

"A soft lockdown means that law enforcement is in control of the situation, and we want to be sure we don't get in the way," Stone said. "If we called and had 100 parents showing up at Hudson Middle School to pick up their kids, it would defeat the purpose of the soft lockdown."

A soft lockdown is when all exterior doors to the schools are locked and no activities can take place outdoors, but classes continue as normal and students and teachers move about within the school as usual. Individual schools can choose to place a call to parents afterward to let them know what took place, Stone said.

A hard lockdown is when exterior doors are locks and the doors to each classroom are locked.

Hudson Middle, Hudson Elementary, Granite Falls Middle, all elementary schools in Lenoir, William Lenoir Middle, and South Caldwell and Hibriten high schools were placed on a soft lockdown Thursday. At one point, for 10 minutes Hudson Elementary was placed on a hard lockdown.

The trouble started about 12:30 p.m. after Bill Griffin, principal of Hudson Middle, called police because some students thought they saw a man in the parking lot with a handgun stuck in his belt, Detective Richard Blevins of the Hudson Police Department said.

When officers arrived, the car had already left. But after interviewing staff who were aware of those who had signed in and out of the office, officers had a good idea who the man was and eventually found Joshua Dean Kirby, 25, of Windsong Circle, who said he had a knife, not a gun, when he was at the school. Kirby was there with his sister, who has a child at Hudson Middle School and told Kirby to leave the knife in the truck before entering the school. When Kirby returned to the car to smoke a cigarette, he placed the knife back in his belt.

Kirby was arrested and charged with misdemeanor possession of a weapon on school property. He was released into the custody of his mother and is scheduled for a hearing June 9 in Caldwell District Court.