The incident that led to a lockdown at Rock Hill’s South Pointe High School last week turned out to be a false alarm. While school officials undoubtedly would rather not have had to endure such a scare, it did represent a good, real-world test of South Pointe’s emergency preparedness policies.
And, despite one small glitch, the school performed with flying colors.
Teachers were notified by students on the afternoon of Feb. 21 that they had received a Twitter message saying there would be a shooting after school. That was the first good thing that happened – responsible students informed school authorities that someone might be planning a violent act at South Pointe.
Teachers alerted administrators, and the school immediately went into lockdown, meaning no one could enter or leave the school as teachers and students began following prescribed emergency procedures. Then school administrators went down a checklist, which included a call to the school district’s safety and risk management official so the superintendent and board members could be notified.
That was the next good to happen – a quick and efficient response to a perceived threat to student safety.
The glitch? Apparently the checklist did not include clear instructions about notifying the district’s transportation office so that any buses approaching the school could be stopped. As a result, a bus returning to South Pointe from the Applied Technology Center with students to be dropped off on campus was not intercepted before reaching the school.
When the bus arrived on campus, students couldn’t enter the school because of the lockdown. But Leonard and Rock Hill police said the students who got off the bus were never in danger.
About 15 police officers responded to the call. After a thorough search, they notified school officials that it was safe to release students.
All in all, the lockdown lasted only about 10 minutes. But they no doubt were a tense 10 minutes.
At around 4 p.m., Leonard said he called all South Pointe parents to inform them of “all I knew.” He followed with a message during the school’s video announcements, praising students for their conduct during the incident.
We would echo that praise and extend it to school administrators and teachers as well. This was an orderly response to a potentially deadly incident.
The district no doubt will fine-tune its emergency checklist to clearly specify who is responsible for notifying the transportation department about lockdowns. Also, Jim Vining, chairman of the Rock Hill school board, said Safe Havens International has been asked to review the incident.
That is appropriate. Safe Havens, a school safety consulting firm, recently presented its survey of the district’s security policies, urging the district to beef up crisis management plans and enact tighter security measures. Reviewing the South Pointe incident provides an ideal opportunity to dissect the school’s emergency plan and see if it can be improved.
But even if some changes are recommended, parents and students have to be reassured by the response to last week’s threat. Let’s hope other schools in the district are as well prepared.