(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Lafayette High School was put on a precautionary lockdown Friday morning after school officials were told a person had entered the building without checking into the front office.
Sgt. James Langston with the St. Joseph Police heads the School Resource Officer program for the St. Joseph School District. He said a student let an unauthorized male subject into one of LHS’s side doors.
School officials said the individual was immediately questioned by a staff member who saw the individual in the hallway without a visitor's badge. The staff member then called the administration to report it. The individual was seen on camera walking around and the school was placed on precautionary lockdown while officers searched the school, according to SJPD.
School officials and police used the security cameras to confirm the individual was no longer in the building and was not a threat at that time, so the lockdown was lifted. The subject had already left but police tracked him down.
Sgt. Langston said there is no evidence or information to show he had a weapon, he is not in custody and they do not know why he was in the school today.
Director of Non-Academic Support and Student Services Robert Sigrist said the school staff and faculty followed District protocol. The policy requires a school to go on lockdown if a person enters the building without checking in first.
Earlier this week, the school was put on a precautionary lockdown when officials discovered a Lafayette High School student had threatened mass violence to one of the area schools on Snapchat.
Sigrist said people likely already were on edge Friday because of it.
Rumors about the incident Friday morning swirled on Facebook. Parents flooded social media sites with questions and comments about the cause of the latest lockdown.
“My grandson said the(y) go the guy,” one grandparent said in a post. “He came in while some students were leaving. He had a weapon. Caught another guy on Washington street that was also involved.”
Another person posted, “A kid had a gun.”
Another parent posted on a crime watch oriented Facebook page during the day’s events that “I really hate to say this. I don’t think we are getting the full story. The voice recorded message made it seem a lot less serious then it is. The fact that there was an unknown person roaming the halls is a threat to our children.”
There was no evidence that the intruder had a weapon and no student, who firsthand saw the intruder, reported seeing a weapon, according to St. Joseph School District.
Sigrist said he believed Lafayette school leaders acted appropriately by putting the school on lockdown, reaching out to law enforcement and tracking information down.
Administrators typically order a lockdown, not allowing students or the public to enter or leave a school building, until school officials and law enforcement has determined it’s safe to go back to normal operations.
SJSD does not use code names for types of lockdown such as "soft" or "hard", Sigrist said. "We work as much as possible to use clear language and directions."
According to the Director, a lockdown can include locking the classroom doors, locking the building, turning off lights, covering doors, moving away from windows or any combination of those directions. SROs and school officials work together to determine what orders to give faculty and staff based on the situation.
"We did advise staff to cover doors so that someone could not see in and to move away from windows if they had exterior classrooms, just as a precaution," Sigrist said.
According to SJSD, the staff was not directed to turn off lights or tell students to hide. He said if students were told to do so that was a misunderstanding and that faculty and staff will work to improve in this area.
Despite the confusion, the director said the entire staff acted swiftly to lock the building down and secure students' safety.
The Director also added that although there may have been some confusion, teachers across the board acted swiftly to lock the building down
Sigrist said the resulting combination of events caused confusion and the escalation of rumors on social media. He said he understood parents’ and students fears and how the timing and emotional impact from Monday’s incident contributed to it all.