Arundel Middle and High respond to hoax calls alleging threats

Photo by Evangeline Fox

By Caitlyn Freeman 

Arundel Middle School (AMS), located in Odenton, went into a police-led lockdown on Monday, March 4th after the Anne Arundel County Police Department (AACOPD) received a 911 call, which turned out to be false, claiming that a student was being threatened with a weapon, presumably a firearm.

According to Sergeant Jacklyn Davis, a communications officer for AACOPD, the department received two hoax calls Monday afternoon. The first call came from a person claiming to be at Arundel High School, and claimed that they were being threatened. Davis says that police were dispatched to the high school, located approximately 0.3 miles from AMS. 

Just before 3 p.m., a few minutes after the call to the high school, another 911 call was made from a person who Davis says police believe is the same individual responsible for the first hoax call. This time, the caller said they were at AMS and were being threatened with what was assumed to be a gun. Police were then dispatched to the middle school. As Davis explained, unlike the call to the high school, the caller gave the dispatchers a name of a student who attended the middle school.

According to George Lindley, Principal of AMS, the middle school’s administration was unaware, at the time, of the reason for the police coming to the school. While Lindley was being informed about the situation, officers began canvassing the building, as well as the surrounding outdoor area,  for the student who allegedly made the call. During this time, the responding officers instructed teachers and students to remain in their classrooms with the door locked. However, as Lindley stated,  the school was not technically “locked down” because he never got on the intercom system and declared a lockdown.

“Any type of lockdown stuff comes from the school,” Davis said, when asked if the responding officers initiated a lockdown.

Bob Mosier, Chief Communications Officer for Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS), stated that in most cases, the principal of a school is responsible for declaring a lockdown.

“I would still call it a lockdown,” said Mosier in regards to Monday, “we work in tandem with the police,” he added.

At Arundel High, Principal Davenport decided to refrain from declaring a lockdown.

“It’s a judgement call,” said Davenport, in regards to how she determines whether or not to declare the school into lockdown.

According to Lindley,  as a result of the call, which happened just before the middle school’s 2:55 p.m. dismissal, students were held in the building for approximately 20 minutes. An email, which Lindley shared with The Pulse, was sent to staff and parents of AMS students via ConnectED:

Good Afternoon Arundel Middle School Parents and Staff,

This is principal George Lindley calling to provide you with information about our delayed dismissal today. Shortly before school ended for the day, police received a report that a student had called them to say someone was threatening him/her with a weapon. Police arrived to our school to investigate. We located the student who was alleged to have made the report and, working with police, determined that the identified student was not involved, nor was the child threated [sic]. Out of an abundance of caution, we held buses and walkers for about 20 minutes as police concluded their investigation and to ensure the safety of everyone. I want to emphasize that police have not found any threat at our school. What occurred today was precautionary and done in the best interests of student safety.

Thank you for your understanding and support,

Mr. Lindley

Lindley stated that the police are conducting an investigation regarding the hoax calls and, to his knowledge, they have a solid lead.

Davis stated that she wasn’t permitted to comment much about the incident because it’s an open investigation. She did, however, mention that there are consequences for those who make false 911 calls.

“People can be charged,” Davis said.

According to the “School Crisis and Emergency Management Plans” page located on the AACPS website, students should always be aware of the “Emergency Management Plan,” which can found on the AACPS website, that was developed by the school system. According to the plan, if a school is placed into lockdown, the procedures a student should take are:

  • If indoors, go to the nearest securable classroom
  • Silence phones and remain quiet
  • Remain ready to evacuate if conditions warrant
  • Follow staff instructions
  • If outdoors, find a safe exterior location

As for teachers, they’re instructed to:

  • Bring all students and staff into nearest securable room
  • Close and keep locked all windows and doors
  • Turn out classroom/office lights
  • Close shades/blinds, etc.
  • Keep everyone quiet and out of sight
  • No one leaves or enters the building
  • If outdoors, guide students to a safe exterior location

Davenport went on to explain that Arundel teachers and staff participate in monthly safety training where each month focuses on a different emergency scenario. Davenport says the information gathered from the drills are then analyzed.

She explained that each teacher in the building is given a binder which includes the “School Crisis Emergency Management Plan” that’s specific to Arundel. The binder also includes a map of the building as well as examples of emergency scenarios and how a teacher should handle it. The plan also delegates a job to each staff person. If an emergency situation were to occur, Davenport, for example, is the incident commander until law enforcement arrives. Davenport added that the plan is updated yearly.

According to Davenport, teachers are not required to carry the binder with them during an emergency but it’s a resource for them to refer to. She also mentioned that as a safety measure, over the summer, Arundel will be receiving a new double vestibule that will replace the buildings front doors. As Davenport explained, if a visitor wishes to enter the building, they must provide identification to the attendance window. After the bell rings at 7:30, all doors will be locked. Davenport emphasized that students should refrain from opening the doors for anyone wishing to enter the building. 

“[students] should not, for any reason, open any of those doors,” Davenport said.

Mosier confirmed this and added that all schools within the school system will be receiving renovations of the same nature.