EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to include information from Superintendent Brad Snyder
NEW ALBANY — A false alarm that initiated a lockdown caused a tense situation at New Albany High School on Friday.
New Albany Police Chief Todd Bailey said the department responded to the school around 10:45 a.m. after an internal alarm was activated. Staff have a system to activate the alarm, which is broadcast over the PA. In this case, a worker accidentally set off the alarm.
Some students disregarded the lockdown and fled the building. Many called their parents and were picked up outside the school.
Senior Adameeyon Burton said she was in the cafeteria when the alarm sounded.
“We were in the cafeteria and they were telling us go, go hide, go somewhere. Everyone started running, people started crying,” Burton said. “… I was crying, I was running, I was on the phone.”
Gabriela Pelfrey, Maya Jackson and Kaylie Tucker were all in the cafeteria when the alarm was activated.
“Everybody started running to the cafeteria in the back, and I was scared, bro, because everybody was crying and stuff,” Jackson said.
A teacher told the students to “get down,” while some students ran outside. A cafeteria worker was saying there was a shooting, according to the students.
Superintendent Brad Snyder said that after talking to New Albany High School’s cafeteria manager, the school corporation doesn’t believe that a cafeteria worker or any adult said that there was a shooting. The students who didn’t run out of the school were “compliant and attentive,” he said.
“The good news is everybody did what they were supposed to do,” Snyder said. “People took over, went into lockdown mode, the police were dispatched. They were there in a timely fashion.”
Several students told the News and Tribune they thought they saw a gun, or heard someone saw a gun, but according to Chief Bailey, when police responded they searched the school and interviewed students, investigating the rumors, and found no such event had occurred.
Snyder also stated that there was no gun and said no students were hurt, despite talk among students of a girl being trampled in the cafeteria and being taken to the hospital.
David Young, whose daughter attends New Albany High School, said he received the school’s message at 11:19 a.m., but saw another parent post about the alarm around 10:47 a.m. Young called that time difference “disturbing.”
Another parent, Gary Simpson, said he didn’t hear about the incident until his daughter started texting her mother about it.
“I’m [expletive] off about it,” he said. “The school just doesn’t call for you for this kind of thing.”
Kaylie Tucker’s mother, Kristie, also picked her up from school. Before the all clear, she called the school office to ask what was happening and got another conflicting report that there was a fake gun.
“I was terrified,” she said. “Luckily, I was right down the street. And I’m just to the point I’m about to home school. They won’t do anything to protect these children from the other students, and I’m over it. You know? I’m absolutely over it.”
Grandmother Belinda Warren said she believes that there was a gun, despite the police report, pointing to all the students who said they saw one, and thinks “they’re gonna keep everything hush hush.”
“If there wasn’t no gun how come the cops are still around?” she asked around noon on Friday.
Snyder said the school corporation did not mean to expose anyone to extreme stress.
“It’s obviously a stressful [situation], and it you know, it creates anxiety for people,” he said. “On one hand, we are very grateful that we have the technology and we have safety systems in place. We think we’re on the right track. But when you run large, public facilities, human error is going to happen.”
Snyder said that the employee who made the mistake has been forthcoming, and that the school system will be looking into whether there is a way to keep the same thing from happening again.
This is the third gun-related incident at New Albany High School in recent months. Two threats were made toward the school via social media after the Feb. 14 shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were killed. Each of the local threats was investigated and misdemeanor charges were filed against the suspects.
— Reporters Danielle Grady, Aprile Rickert and Erin Walden contributed to this story.