by Larry Austin
Students at Kaegebein Elementary School were sheltered in place and visitors were denied access to the school on Thursday as school district personnel and police investigated an unidentified rumor.
Mary Haggerty, principal at Kaegebein Elementary School, in a message to parents sent via email Thursday, said that Thursday morning "a parent shared a concern received from her child regarding a potential threat to the safety of the students and school. The report was second hand and corroborating information was inconsistent, leading us to believe that the threat was not credible."
The school district office contacted the Erie County Sheriff's Office, while the school cancelled a planned Mini Relay For Life program.
Joseph Giarrizzo, assistant superintendent of school business services, described the information received as "sort of second, third and fourth hand, but it was deemed serious enough that we wanted to do an investigation, and while we were doing that investigation we had decided to go into shelter-in-place."
Whereas a lockdown would take place for a known credible threat in the building and would lock children in the classrooms, away from doors and windows, Giarrizzo said, the shelter-in-place brought all the children back to their classrooms, where teachers took attendance to make sure that all were accounted for, and sheltered them there. "They went through their day. They were escorted through the hallways, but they went to gym class, they went to lunch, they moved about the building as they normally would. But we prevented people from coming in and out of the building till we made sure that the situation didn't require any further action," Giarrizzo said. "So it wasn't anywhere near as severe as a lockdown, but it was still a precautionary measure taken just to be on the safe side."
Specialists from the sheriff's office were brought in who conducted interviews, after which "we all agreed that further action wasn't necessary, and we lifted the shelter-in-place," Giarrizzo said.
A sheriff's deputy stayed until dismissal at the end of the day "just to err on the side of caution," he added.
"It wasn't deemed that there was anything that required any further action, but, as I said before, you have to take every situation at face value as a serious situation, and they all should be investigated, and that's what we did," Giarrizzo said. "We didn't want to cause too great an alarm, but we wanted to make sure that we did what we felt was necessary to make sure that the children were safe and that we were doing everything possible to keep them safe."
According to Haggerty, teachers "were directed to keep the shades down to prevent students from being upset by the presence of law officers and their vehicles."
"I would like to commend the sheriff's department, the state troopers, the teachers and staff for their quick response, their focus on student safety and their commitment to maintain an orderly and calm environment for all," Haggerty added.