Several Warrick County schools were put on lockouts on Monday due to a social media message threatening to take the lives of dozens of students.
Castle North Middle School, Castle South Middle School, Castle High School, John H. Castle Elementary, Chandler Elementary School and the Warrick Education Center were all placed on lockouts Monday after the Warrick County School Corporation became aware of a threatening Snapchat at 6:30 a.m.
Warrick County School Superintendent Brad Schneider said the threat on Monday morning was very severe.
"There was a claim that there was going to be a school shooting," he said. "And that they would kill 60 kids."
Schneider said the threat was made against "North and South schools."
"The word 'Castle' was never mentioned but there [was] reason to believe it was those schools," he said. "So we put those on the lockout and the other schools followed suit."
North High School in Evansville was also on a lockout, which Schneider said is different than a lockdown.
"[It] means that all exterior doors are locked and the school still functions as usual," he said. "We did not go into 'lockdown' which means that the students are locked in their classrooms until they are released by law enforcement."
Megan Cobb, a concerned parent who has children that attend both Boonville Middle and Boonville High schools, said
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she would feel more at ease if there was an open-door policy instead of a lockout policy during the time of a credible threat.
"The thought that a psycho student might be in a locked down building makes me uneasy," she said. "Would it not be worth considering inviting parents in to protect their children during a threat rather than not allow visitors if the threat is another student."
Cobb said she believes letting other parents in the building when there is a shooter might help calm the situation.
"I would feel more at ease knowing there were other parents who felt the same in the building," she said. "Just maybe, and hopefully, it would be enough to deter a child from such vile action in the first place."
Cobb said she would gladly give her own life for her child to protect them at school.
"As would most parents," she said. "Whether that be shielding them and taking a bullet, tossing them out a window, or rushing the shooter, risking my own life."
Schneider said the decision to put the schools on lockout is the school corporation's way of being proactive.
"We take every threat seriously," he said. "Whether it is legitimate or not."
Schneider said all of the schools had an increased presence of law enforcement, on top of the school resource officers that are already stationed at the schools in general.
"And that's, any time there is a threat, those are the additional steps we take," he said.
The lock outs were lifted at the schools by 1 p.m., after the Warrick County Sheriff's Office determined the threat was not credible as it pertains to Warrick County Schools.
"The Snapchat threat originated from outside the representative agencies' jurisdictions and it was then viewed by a Warrick County student," Schneider said. "The Warrick County Sheriff's Office is currently working with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to identify the origin of the threat."
Several angry parents addressed the school board that same Monday night about their disappointment in how the corporation handled informing parents about what was going on, and asked questions about what steps the corporation is going to take protect their children in the future.
Chad Hoffman, a father who has children that go to Newburgh Elementary, Castle South Middle and Castle High schools, said he was outraged that he discovered his children were in a lockout due to social media posts, and not from a notification from the school corporation.
"There is no reason I should find out on social media," he said. "I got an email four hours later saying my son was absent from seven periods but I couldn't get an email saying 'hey your kid might be shot today.' "
Hoffman said the way the situation was handled was the most absurd thing he's ever seen.
"I had tears in my eyes when I was picking my son up," he said, "because I had no idea what was going on,"
Hoffman said there must be a line of communication between the corporation and parents.
"If one of you guys wants to text me randomly," he said, "I'll send out a mass email. Something has to happen in order for us to be able to understand what is going on with our kids on a daily basis."
Schneider said he did agree that an email should have been sent out sooner and said they would be in the future, but that the reason for the delay was due to addressing the security threat first at the schools and the schools having to handle signing out over 900 kids from class.
"And when 900 parents show up to get kids out early, that takes time and that takes a lot of coordination," he said. "Because we don't want to send the kid home with someone they're not suppose to go home with."
Schneider said the parents' panic makes it difficult for the school corporation to do their job.
"I completely understand that, with the events in Florida and Kentucky, it doesn't take much for people to get riled up," he said. "But at the same point in time, as adults and parents, we need to maintain a sense of calm and that things are great."
Parent Amy Wells said she has a handicap daughter who she still dropped off at school, knowing there was a threat.
Wells said it was because of how much she believes in the school corporation and its ability to protect her daughter.
"She can't run -- she's a sitting duck," she said. "I left here there, she knows that to do, she knows that they are going to take care of her and keep her safe. I have full confidence in our staff in her schools."
A few parents brought up raising money or their willingness to have their taxes raised in order to have increased security at the schools.
Assistant Superintendent Todd Armstrong said the school corporation gets a $50,000 matching Homeland Security Grant every year but that they are currently spending it on replacing some of the 350 security cameras that are located throughout the schools.
"We've spent a lot of time and money to keep our schools safe," Schneider said.
Schneider said he wouldn't divulge any details of what the school corporation has done or will do in the future in regards to the safety of the children because doing so could put them at risk.
"We are not going to publicly disclose what we are going to do because then they plan around that," he said.
Schneider said parents can be proactive by attending the local school safety team meetings.
"They meet once a month and they are public meetings," he said.
Schneider said he encourages students to come forward to the corporation if they ever feel unsafe or if they hear a threat.
"When a student hears something that makes them feel comfortable," he said. "Please report it."
For information about when the public safety meetings are or to report a concern, contact the school board at 812-897-6050.