Four Casper schools were placed on lockouts Friday morning after two unrelated tips were made about potential threats to the buildings via the Safe2Tell app. A juvenile was later arrested because one of the tips was deemed to be a false threat.
Natrona County High School students sheltered in their locked classrooms Friday as Casper police officers swept the central Casper campus with their guns drawn. Law enforcement and school officials had received a Safe2Tell tip at around 9:20 a.m. that there was an armed suspicious person on the high school’s campus.
The district immediately placed NCHS on a lockout, and it also locked out nearby Park Elementary and Dean Morgan Junior High. Those lockouts were all lifted by about 10:45 a.m. No threat, suspicious person or weapon was found at NCHS, and all staff and students were reported as being safe. School function at the school returned to normal.
At around 2:15 p.m., police announced that they’d determined the tip about NCHS was a “false threat” and that they’d arrested a juvenile who admitted to calling in the threat. The juvenile was arrested on a felony charge of making terroristic threats.
At about the same time the lockouts at those schools ended, police left NCHS and headed toward Casper Classical Academy. Another Safe2Tell tip, which authorities say is unrelated to the first tip, was made about that school and about a potential concern or threat to the school environment. Casper Classical was placed on its own lockout, which was lifted after about 30 minutes. No threat was found at that school.
Police responded to NCHS, which is near downtown Casper, at 9:20 a.m. At some point shortly after the lockout started, the school initiated a “secure in place” — essentially a lockdown — and police began clearing classrooms. Students were confined to their classrooms during the sweep.
Dozens of armed officers from the Casper Police Department and the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office responded to NCHS. One Casper police officer was standing near the east entrance with a long gun. Another officer was spotted on the roof. More than 10 police vehicles were seen at school.
Emily Steiner, a 15-year-old freshman at NC, said her friend was in a classroom that was cleared. Officers swept that room with long guns and yelled at the students to get their hands up.
Police department spokeswoman Rebekah Ladd said police “respond above and beyond” when it comes to potential threats against schools.
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“We don’t take chances,” she said.
School district spokeswoman Tanya Southerland said the district would rather “overreact than underreact” to incidents like this one. She said it was a “scary morning” for families, students and staff.
Resources will be available to children affected by the lockouts, Southerland said. She acknowledged kids saw things that were “not normal, not part of what school is.”
During the lockdown, authorities closed down the campus to everyone, including parents. After it was lifted many parents picked up their kids from school.
A message announcing the lockout was lifted was heard over the school’s loudspeaker at around 10:45 a.m. Students were seen leaving school buildings around that time.
Park and Dean Morgan were both put on a “precautionary lockout” for a time, the district said in a statement, because of their proximity to NC. Police did not sweep those schools.
In an earlier statement, the district said students and staff were safe, but had been directed to shelter in place. During such situations, students are kept in their classrooms.
In a lockout, a school locks its doors and brings all students inside.
The Friday lockouts were the first of this school year. But the district is no stranger to such incidents. Dean Morgan was locked out due to a bomb threat in May, and law enforcement investigated threats against NC and Kelly Walsh in December 2018. District officials were themselves the target of a threat in November 2018. NCHS was the subject of another anonymous tip last October that prompted another police investigation.
The district has emphasized school safety in recent years, hiring eight school resource officers in eight months. Schools have also instituted changes to their operation to improve security, including instituting single points of entry at each building.