A lockdown at Jefferson Elementary School ended after just an hour when deputies said they couldn't find any evidence of a man with a gun near the campus. (WRDW-TV)
Thursday, Jan. 10, 2012
BURNETTOWN, S.C. (WRDW) -- On Tuesday, just after noon, Jefferson Elementary in Burnettown was put on lockdown. Students say they saw a man in a green or blue shirt with a black mask on holding a rifle only yards from the school.
"My child told me he saw someone in the woods," said one parent, who prefers to remain anonymous for the sake of her child who attends Jefferson Elementary.
Two days later, the parent still wants answers. Even after the threat was cleared and the lockdown lifted, she didn't learn about it until hours later.
"I received a phone call from the principal. She does one call through all the school system to the parents. It was between 5:30 and 6 o'clock," the parent said.
Her cellphone's history shows it was 5:21 p.m. to be exact.
"I believe that all parents should have been notified as soon as the event happened, instead of waiting that late," she said.
Principal Becky Wilson told News 12 she's heard that concern. She says she's the only one with a password to send out robocalls, and she was busy with law enforcement at the time. She says besides the call, a note was sent home with students so it would get to every student.
However, on Tuesday, a News 12 staff member called up there to ask what the lockdown was about. The staffer didn't say his name or that he worked for the news. The receptionist told him the lockdown was a drill.
Of course, News 12 later found out that was a lie.
"It doesn't matter what the situation is. I'm going to panic when it comes to my child, and I should have been the first one to be notified, so I could go up there and get him out of harm's way. That is my job as a mother to protect him," the parent said.
Principal Wilson does admit receptionists lied and told some callers it was a drill. She says that's a something they regret.
However, she says the larger lesson here is what they learned. She says the school wants to hear from parents, and teachers will actually be meeting next week to discuss lockdown policy improvements.
Of course, not all parents were dissatisfied with the response. Parent and PTO Board Member Paula Holley told News 12 in a statement: "I was well informed of the situation by a note in my child's folder and a phone call that evening. I am so thankful they put my child's safety first by focusing all of their time and efforts on securing the school and making my child safe. Calling me to immediately notify me of the situation would have taken the focus away from the safety of my child and I can not even imagine someone suggesting that this should have happened. I know the [Jefferson Elementary School] faculty would protect my child with their own lives because my child sits in class right beside their own children."