Threat made to AHS; Note found by student makes claim to shoot up schoo
Published 7:00 am Wednesday, December 19, 2018
By Michael Stoll and Eric Johnson
A note, discovered Monday afternoon containing a threat to Austin High School, has resulted in extra security according to Austin High School officials.
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In an email sent to parents Monday night, Austin High School Principal Andrea Malo announced the threat was for Tuesday, Dec. 18. Law enforcement was notified and school district personnel met and responded to the situation according to procedure.
“The safety and security of our students and staff is of the utmost importance to the district,” Malo said in the email. “Therefore, there will be additional security measures in place at Austin High School (Tuesday).”
In a press conference Tuesday morning with Malo and Superintendent David Krenz, Krenz said the note was discovered in the restroom area of a men’s locker room.
“After school, the note was found in one of our locker rooms by one of our students who brought it to our attention,” Krenz said.
Krenz said that note stated that attack would take place around noon.
“(The note) was a vague threat that it would take place at 12 o’clock and it was to shoot up the building,” Krenz said.
Together with the school’s crisis team, the threat was deemed serious enough to begin protocols and, together with Austin Police, officials began instituting the heightened security measures.
An email was sent to parents at around 9 p.m. Tuesday night.
Malo’s email said that all activities prior to 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday were cancelled and the building would open for students at 7:30 a.m. All students had to enter through Door No. 1 and No. 13 on the east side and needed to show their student IDs and be checked.
Bags were also searched and the campus would be closed throughout the day and no students would be allowed to leave for lunch.
Austin Police Chief Brian Krueger said the student resources officer worked with school staff in coordinating the security measures.
“We are taking it seriously and providing as much assistance to the school as we can,” he said.
Students seemed to be taking the process in stride and working with the school according to Malo and Krenz.
“We greeted students at the door as students were coming in and we were checking backpacks,” Malo said. “They’ve been really good to work with. They are taking it in stride.”
But she also said there were probably, “some students in our school that are anxious today,” she said.
Counselors were available for students if they wanted to talk.
Some families chose to take the extra step of keeping their students at home today, something the school has noticed through attendance.
Krenz said that 58 percent of students were listed as absent compared to a normal day. He said the school usually enjoys between 88 and 93 percent on average attendance.
Krenz said that principals at I.J. Holton Intermediate School, Ellis Middle School and the elementary schools were made known of the situation, but that things were progressing as normal at the schools.
AHS has also been working with Pacelli Catholic Schools across the street.
“We’ve kept the principal at Pacelli, Jean McDermott, in the loop and law enforcement has also been working with them,” Krenz said. “They have measures in place.”
McDermott confirmed that they have moved to largely keep students indoors today. Krenz alerted her to the situation last Monday night.
“As we typically do when Austin High goes into lockdown is go into what we call a soft lockdown,” McDermott said. “We have everything stepped up and doors locked and we have extra staff monitoring the doors.”
McDermott also said there was no open lunch for students who have that option and an extra police presence will be on hand during the lunch period.
The school has also asked Austin Police for an extra presence into tonight at various sporting activities, which include a gymnastics meet, hockey and basketball. There will also be extra security procedures through the week leading up to Christmas break, which begins this coming Monday; however, the school is still looking into what those might be.
“There will be heightened security, but we don’t know what level that will be yet,” Krenz said.
Officials were planning to meet Tuesday afternoon to talk more about what those steps might be.
Students a big part
Both Krenz and Malo lauded the students throughout the process and urged them to step up when they see things like this in the future.
Krenz said he spoke to the parents of the student who brought the information forward.
“They were proud that their (child) has stepped forward to provide and share this information,” Krenz said.
Officials urged other students to act the same way when they see possible threats.
“Don’t keep it to yourself,” Krenz said. “You have to share that information.”
Officials also had a message for parents.
“It’s just important that you’re talking to your kids,” Malo said. “Be that person they can go to.”
Krenz urged parents with any questions about the incident or process to call his office.
“If parents have questions or concerns they can call my office and we’ll work through this the best we can,” he said.
Copy of the letter emailed to parents
Dear Austin High School Families
A note was found at Austin High School which contained a threat for tomorrow, December 18. Law enforcement was notified and is working with the district. School district personnel have met and have responded to the situation according to procedure.
The safety and security of our students and staff is of the utmost importance to the district. Therefore, there will be additional security measures in place at Austin High School tomorrow. All activities prior to 7:30 AM at Austin High School have been cancelled tomorrow Tuesday, December 18. The building will open for students at 7:30 AM. All students must enter through Door #1 and #13 on the east side. Students will need to show their student id and student will be checked. Campus will be closed throughout the day and no students will be allowed to leave for lunch.