Updated at 5:18 p.m. Nov. 14
Shaker Heights High School administrators declared a lockdown at today 10:45 a.m. following three anonymous bomb threats, according to a statement published at shaker.org.
The lockdown came six days after the election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th U. S. president, four days after students planned a walkout in protest of the suspension of two students who revealed another student’s racist social media posts and text messages and three days after another student was suspended for tweeting harsh comments about African Americans, Asians and women.
The lockdown remained in effect until 12:10 p.m., when students exited the building using a modified rapid dismissal protocol. The high school annually practices rapid dismissals, during which students leave the building immediately after 10th period without stopping at lockers or otherwise delaying their exit.
SWAT personnel were observed on the roof of the high school and inside the building during the lockdown. K9 units could be heard barking. The Shaker Heights Police Department continues its investigation and has not found evidence of a credible threat. As of 3 p.m., police were still at the high school, and security personnel appeared to be scrutinizing cars left stranded in the building parking lots.
Throughout the nearly one-and-a-half hours, students remained in lockdown position, huddled in corners of classrooms, hunched over smartphones. Reports of students urinating in trash cans, sinks, water bottles and on the floor spread throughout social media and in student texts.
Shaker.org published three statements regarding the threat. The first informed community members of the threat and the lockdown situation:
“Shaker Heights High School went into lockdown as a precaution at 10:45 a.m. today following a report of a possible threat. The Shaker Heights Police Department is searching the building. At this time, they have not found any evidence of a credible threat. Students and staff will remain in lockdown until the police conclude their search and give the all-clear.”
A second statement informed the community of early dismissal. At 12:05 p.m., a district email to faculty stated that students would be dismissed at 12:10 p.m.
At 12:12 p.m. Dr. Ann Spurrier, assistant principal, spoke to the high school via P. A. announcement. She stated that the school “will be dismissing students in a structured rapid dismissal. Please remain in place until your room is called. There are no stops to lockers, offices, etc. Please leave backpacks and all belongings except purses and cell phones in place.” She instructed teachers to guide students out of the building and then move to Woodbury field to supervise pick ups.
Principal Jonathan Kuehnle is out of state, attending an International Baccalaureate event.
Spurrier dismissed students by room number, beginning with third-floor classrooms. Students evacuated the building calmly. Students who were not immediately picked up or who did not drive or walk home were directed to wait for their rides on the front lawn of Woodbury Elementary School, which parallels South Woodland Road.
After an 11:01 a.m. robocall about the lockdown reached families, parents arrived at the school in confusion, which was echoed in community Facebook groups. More than 25 inquisitive comments were left on a single post in the Onaway Community Organization Facebook group.
The third statement published to shaker.org stated that “while it is possible this is connected to the social media incident that occurred last week involving several high school students, we will leave that to the police to determine.”
“We take these things very seriously. We are fully cooperating with the police,” said Dr. Gregory Hutchings, Jr., school superintendent, in a shaker.org statement. “We are saddened that people have taken it upon themselves to disrupt our educational process. We will get through this together.”
Senior Claire Connors said, “I think they handled it a lot better than the whole fiasco last year.”
The Shakerite contacted Director of Communications Scott Stephens, Superintendent Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr., Communications Specialist Kristen Miller and the Shaker Heights Police Department. All were unavailable to comment.
The district sent out an additional robocall and posted a similar message to shaker.org at 5 p.m. explaining that the Shaker Heights Police Department has since given the all-clear and completed their sweep of the high school.
According to the statement, the building will be closed and locked tonight and students are to report to their third period class to retrieve their belongings by 8:47 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 15. Students will remain in third period until 9 a.m., when they will report to their first period class. An adjusted bell schedule will be followed.
The Shakerite is following this story as it develops.
Multimedia Editor Ose Arheghan, Editor-in-Chief Nora Spadoni, Print Managing Editor Grace Lougheed and Media Managing Editor Zachary Nosanchuk contributed reporting.