The Klickitat County Sheriff’s Office deemed rumors unfounded that a Columbia High School student would “shoot up the school” during a Thursday night investigation requested by Columbia High School Principal Craig McKee and Vice Principal Brian Morris. The rumors still caused a lockdown and left parents racing to pick their children up from school Friday morning after a school district employee spotted the student, who was the focus of the rumors, off-campus around 9:46 a.m.
Undersheriff Mike Kallio said that there were no threats made to the school on social media, and that the student “was just blowing off some steam.”
Law enforcement officers from the sheriff’s office then investigated and further found no evidence that the student had no intentions of causing harm, finding no weapons on him or at his house.
“He was just sitting down,” said Craig McKee, principal of Columbia High School, of the second investigation into the threat.
“There was no credible threat,” McKee said.
McKee said the student had no intentions of entering campus. Kallio also confirmed that the student was dropped off near campus by his father so his father could pick up the student’s homework.
“He had said he was actually bummed out about the rumors,” Kallio said.
McKee said they reported a rumor to the Klickitat County Sheriff’s Office Thursday around 9 p.m. The rumor went up the chain of command from a coach who said students approached him during practice that they heard another student was a potential threat to the school.
“The rumor was that a certain student was going to shoot up the school,” McKee said.
McKee said the administration held a staff meeting around 8 a.m. Friday due to the credibility of a threat. There, he asked staff members to report any sightings of the student to law enforcement.
When asked, McKee would not specify more regarding details of the rumors or of the people involved in the rumors, citing privacy issues.
The district went into lockdown after a School District employee reported that they had spotted the student off-campus for around ten minutes while law enforcement investigated, according to Superintendent Jerry Lewis.
While Columbia High School was the location centered around the rumors, each school within the School District entered lockdown due to the proximity of the alleged threat to each building, according to Lewis.
Parents of students within the district had begun picking up children by 9 a.m. after their children had texted or sent reports of a potential threat on campus.
Of the 375 students that attend Columbia High School, parents picked up around 300 students by 2 p.m., leaving around 75 students in the building to finish classes for the day.
One parent told The Enterprise that their seventh grader, who was in gym class at the time, was told to huddle with classmates in the shower while the teacher stood near the door. She reported students inside were crying. She also reported through her husband, who picked their student up, that there were parents lined up around the parking lot to take their children home.
Parents received the first notification that a lockdown occurred around a half-hour after the fact through robocalls, Skyward, as well as social media and the district website.
“Schools briefly went into lockdown (for a few minutes) because the student believed to have made a threat was spotted nearby. He has been located and is with law enforcement. There is no threat at this time and school is no longer in lockdown,” the statement noted.
When asked why parents had heard the rumors before the school issued any statement, Lewis said that “we were investigating every lead possible.”
“The problem is the rumors hit social media so fast,” Lewis said. “It’s a challenge.”
Later in the day, Superintendent Lewis added another update.
“Last night, the district received information that there may have been a threatening statement made by a student. The district immediately contacted law enforcement and they investigated promptly. It was determined that the threat was not credible, however out of an abundance of caution, law enforcement was present at school today to ensure student safety,” Lewis wrote.
He continued: “Later in the morning today, the youth who allegedly made the threatening statement was spotted near Columbia High School and the school was temporarily placed in lockdown while law enforcement made contact with the individual. It was determined that there was no threat to the school and the lockdown was quickly lifted.”
“It is our highest priority to keep students and staff safe at school. While we understand that situations involving possible threats to schools are always alarming, our law enforcement partners have assured us that there is no threat or danger,” Lewis wrote.
“I’ve seen lockdowns more than once in my career,” said McKee. “You can usually trace it pretty easily.”
McKee said further that he and staff members from Columbia High School spent the better part of the day investigating the rumors. “We traced down more rumors than you can imagine in one day,” McKee said.
“We try to get accurate up-to-date information as soon as possible… but we don’t want rumors flying around,” said McKee. “We’re all trying to do our best.”