Lopez students sent home early over security threat

Following a tip that there may be a weapon hidden on campus, Lopez Island School District evacuated the building and sent students home early on Tuesday, Oct. 8. The school remained closed for the rest of the week.

“We understand everyone’s concerns; we are proceeding with the utmost of caution,” said an alert on the schools’ website. “We are working with the Sheriff’s department to ensure the safety of all students and staff.”

According to the alert, San Juan County Sheriff’s deputies searched the school grounds and found no weapons, this was confirmed by a Facebook post made by the Sheriff’s office. The Sheriff’s Office posted that school officials contacted law enforcement regarding the possibility of two guns being hidden on the school grounds. The alert and Facebook post both said that there is no security threat on the school grounds and that the Sheriff’s Office and school district are investigating.

In a letter sent to parents, staff and students on the afternoon of Oct. 8, Superintendent Brian Auckland, Interim High School Principal Dixie Budke and School Board Chair John Helding said the Sheriff’s Office had completed an initial investigation and found “no evidence of a credible or active threat of violence.”

The administrators reiterated that no weapons were found on campus and added that there have been none turned into the school nor any confiscated this year.

“All that said, we know that this has been a challenging and frightening situation for all of us and the students in particular,” they wrote.

Having the school closed Wednesday allowed deputies to do more investigating, assess the safety and a perform a thorough sweep of the grounds and buildings, the letter continued. The administrators said they will also be working with staff to review emergency procedures.

“Safety is our number one concern,” the letter said. “We know that it was traumatic for students and staff. The decision was not made lightly but all felt it was necessary and the safest thing to do given the situation.”

At an emergency school board meeting on Oct. 9, the board agreed to not have the students return to school until Monday, Oct. 14. Friday was an already scheduled in-service day.

“We’ve been working hard through all of this and it has been a challenging time for everybody,” Helding said. “We deeply understand the importance of this and getting this decision right.”

San Juan County Sheriff Ron Krebs attended the meeting and said the investigation was very complex. He explained that on Oct. 7, the Sheriff’s Office received a report of threats of violence involving two Lopez students. The school board had also handled a threat of violence from the previous week and the student would be receiving counseling and disciplined, he added.

“Though a threatening statement was made no credible threat of violence exists at this time,” Krebs said.

A rumor that there was a gun on campus seems to have stemmed from a post on Facebook, Krebs explained. It has since been deleted, he added. The alleged post was about an incident that occurred in the 1980s wherein a student had a gun in his backpack, Krebs said.

“We think the Lopez Island schools are safe to resume class and there is no credible threat to students or staff safety at this time,” Krebs said.