(West Memphis, AR) The 12 campuses in the West Memphis School District were on lockdown Tuesday afternoon, after the district received four anonymous threats.
One threat was even made against the life of a principal.
The threats were called into West Junior High School, Bragg Elementary School, Weaver Elementary School, and the district central office.
West Memphis police and Crittenden County sheriff’s deputies were placed at all campuses Tuesday afternoon as a precaution. No one was allowed on campus, and no children were allowed to leave, unless a parent came to sign them out.
West Memphis Police Chief Donald Oakes said that the department is now working to find the people responsible for the calls. They could be charged with terrorist threats and false alarms.
The West Memphis School District told News Channel 3 they were rolling out automated phone calls to all parents Tuesday afternoon. But many parents said they did not know about the lockdowns.
Gina Russell, who waited in a long line to pick up her nine-year-old daughter, said she heard about the threats via News Channel 3.
“It is very, very scary. I called her and they said they’ll just let the kids out when police say they’ll be able to let them free,” Russell said.
Russell said that her daughter was already frightened hearing about the Boston marathon bombings on Monday. Other tragedies have been difficult to discuss too.
“Whenever the Sandy Hook thing happened, she was scared to go to school. We had to explain to her, it’s ok. Everybody’s there to protect you, nobody’s going to let anybody come in,” Russell said.
Fifth grader Anna Foster said the dismissal process was different Tuesday. While they usually exit to wait on the sidewalk, she said they were told to stay put.
“In the classroom. And when they called your name, you had to quickly come out and find your parent,” she said.
Her father, Charles Foster, is a U.S. history teacher at West Memphis High School.
Foster said, “I think, like most people, that it is a response to the bombing in Boston. I don’t expect it to be anything tragic. But I applaud the school district for taking the proper precautions.”
Foster said he didn’t make a big deal of the lockdown status. Students continued to change classrooms for each of their periods in the afternoon.
At Richland Elementary, Anna Foster said the students were not told what was happening.
“Our teacher just said not to worry about it. We asked her if it was a lockdown, but she said it wasn’t.”