Unfounded threats and suspicious incidents prompted schools officials to heighten security at schools across the state from Pueblo to Woodland Park to Douglas County this week. Suspicious ticking noises, suspicious people and reports of threats popped up at schools throughout the week, and the general consensus among school officials was that being overcautious is the best way to ensure student safety.
On Friday, District 11 posted a message on Facebook from Palmer High School’s principal stating that officials had learned of an “unfounded rumor that threatened the safety of our students.”
District spokeswoman Devra Ashby said the information came from the Safe2Tell tipline, and from rumors that officials picked up on at the school.
“The safety and well-being of our students and staff are of our utmost concern, therefore this rumor is being taken very seriously and District 11 security, along with the Colorado Springs Police Department, are investigating this situation,” the message read.
Though the message didn’t elaborate on what the threat and rumors were, officials called them unfounded.
Nevertheless, the message, paired with a phone call that went out to families about the threats, prompted hundreds of calls from concerned Palmer High School parents, Ashby said.
“They (students) had a regular day today but we felt we needed to get the words out to parents,” she said. “Sometimes with rumors, we want to squelch them before they grow.”
On Wednesday, Woodland Park High School and Gateway Elementary went on lockdown for nearly two hours while police searched for a “suspicious” man on campus dressed in camouflage and wearing a backpack. According to a message on the school website, Woodland Park police told the school that the man turned out to be a parent of a high school student. While students reported that he looked suspicious, police determined that he was not a threat.
“We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused to our students, families, and staff; however, student safety is our highest priority,” the message on the website read.
The next day, local news stations reported that a portion of the Woodland Park High School was evacuated to the commons area after a ticking noise was heard coming from a student’s backpack. According to reports, after half an hour, police determined the sound was coming from a metronome, and students went back to class.
On Tuesday night, 30 miles south from Woodland Park High School, Fountain Middle School sent out a reverse phone call that went out to all parents explaining that threats has been texted to several students at the school. In a press release sent out Thursday morning, school officials stated that students could feel “comfortable reporting to school today, as the situation is under control.”
According to the release, the student behind the threatening texts was identified, and Fountain police were notified. The school did not share any additional information about the consequences or the context of the threats.
Officials at Pueblo Central High School announced in a new release Thursday that the school would be on “secured perimeter” for Valentine’s Day, after school officials found the words “Columbine February 14” written on the school’s building on Jan. 30. While Pueblo law enforcement personnel had not been able to substantiate the threat, the school had beefed up security anyway.
“As always, parents and guardians are reminded that they have the final decision on whether their children attend school,” the press release read.
North of Colorado Springs, Castle Rock police and the Douglas County sheriff’s deputies increased patrols this week at three schools in the Douglas County School District, after a threat on social media grew to rumors of threats at multiple schools, authorities said.
According to a press release, the threats were not determined to be credible, but were taken seriously nonetheless.
“Law enforcement asks everyone to keep in mind that rumors, even those with no facts behind them, spread very quickly. Sending a message, or posting unconfirmed information, can contribute to an atmosphere of fear.”
Other happenings in Colorado Springs
KRDO/NewsChannel 13 reported that a man with a machete was spotted near Cheyenne Mountain Charter Academy on Tuesday, and that a letter went out to parents that night explaining the situation.
According to the station, the man was not on school grounds and school officials said students were never in danger.
Carson Middle School in in Fountain Fort Carson School District 8 reported that it went on lockdown Friday, though there was no threat. According to a release, a student was taken to the hospital for a medical issue, and the lockdown was initiated to reduce traffic in the school and keep students away from the situation.
Were you a parent on edge this week? Let us know in the comments.