CLATSKANIE — The last day of school at the Clatskanie Middle/High School ended on an alarming note after one student told another student there was a weapon on campus.
No weapon was found, but students went into lockdown for more than an hour Thursday while Columbia County Sheriff’s Office deputies swept the building.
The school had been in the middle of an assembly and went into lockdown around 11:20 a.m. after the information was reported to administrators. Clatskanie School District Superintendent Cathy Hurowitz estimates as many as 200 students were in the building at the time and many ended up in lockdown in the school gym because of the assembly.
The building remained in lockdown until just before 1 p.m.
The last day of school “didn’t end well for our students and that makes me sad,” Hurowitz said. “We had a very, very terrified community and students.”
“It was a terrible experience, especially since Texas is so close and still on our minds,” she added, referring to the May 24 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in the city of Uvalde where 19 students and two teachers were killed.
Though the threat in Clatskanie ended without tragedy, Hurowitz and staff say they are disturbed by how things unfolded on social media during the lockdown.
When the school went into lockdown, students began reaching out to their parents to let them know what was happening. This was understandable, Hurowitz said.
But then people in the community began posting the location of students and staff on social media and this, Hurowitz said, is deeply concerning.
“Had this been an event, they just gave the location of students out to the public and that put every student and staff member in that building at risk,” she said.
“Having contact with your child, I know, makes you feel, ‘OK, they’re safe,'” she added, “but to go out and post it while the event is still happening, I don’t understand what prompted our community to do that.”
Hurowitz spoke with community members and families after the fact, but says there is frustration among school staff over the social media posts.
Going forward, Hurowitz feels the school safety protocols worked as they should and when students return to school in the fall, there will be even more safety measures in place.
The school district successfully passed a bond in May that will fund safety-related upgrades to school buildings, including the middle/high school. Work begins next week.
The district cannot afford the cost of a school resource officer, but has entered into agreements with Columbia County deputies to do regular walk-throughs of school buildings and to get to know students and staff.