Stone speaks out on lockdown

Apr. 15, 2014 @ 12:16 PM

Although some parents were upset last week that the Caldwell County Schools did not notify them when several schools went on lockdown because of what turned out to be a false report of a gunman, the policy is in the interest of safety, Superintendent Steve Stone told the Caldwell County Board of Education at its meeting Monday night.

But Stone added that school officials learned a lesson about how easily rumors can spread in such a situation.

“What we did learn from this instance is that kids text, and when they text, they text misinformation,” Stone said.

It is important for parents to trust that the schools will protect their kids, Stone said.

“When law enforcement tells us that there’s something we need to do, to secure the kids in the building, we’re going to do that,” Stone said. “That’s our first thought. That’s our first action. The communication piece will come after we have made sure every child is safe.”

On Thursday, some Hudson Middle School students reported seeing a man in the parking lot with what they though was a gun in his belt. Police recommended placing that school and 10 others on a “soft” lockdown, which means locking the school’s outer doors but continuing the school day as usual inside. During a “hard” lockdown, all inner and outer doors are locked, with students kept in the classrooms.

Police later found that what the students thought was a gun actually was the handle of a knife. Joshua Dean Kirby, 25, was arrested and charged with misdemeanor possession of a weapon on school property. His hearing is scheduled for June 9 in Caldwell District Court.

Some parents were upset that they learned of the lockdowns through the News-Topic’s Facebook posts or from text messages from their children. The school system sent out an automated message after 6 p.m. explaining the day’s events. Stone has said that the school system’s policy calls for notifying parents only in case of a hard lockdown, and he said Monday night that calling parents during a lockdown could result in hundreds of parents arriving at a school to try to pick up their students. 

“The kids were safe at all times,” he said, and keeping them safe will always be the “first priority” over communication with the parents.

“In this case, the system worked. My hat’s off to Hudson Middle and to all of our 11 schools that responded to a soft lockdown. It should be a great comfort to parents that the system worked,” Stone said.