New efforts to keep students and staff safe during a school threat are being considered by the Clatskanie School District.

Superintendent Cathy Hurowitz said an enhanced partnership with the Columbia County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) will be key to that effort.

"We don't have a police department in Clatskanie, and we just can't call on local law enforcement to give us extra security, so we have to rely on the sheriff's office."

The city of Clatskanie contracts with the CCSO for law enforcement services. The enhanced partnership will include CCSO deputies as part of the regular weekly and monthly CCSD administration meetings with principals.

CMHS lockdown

Lockdown

Clatskanie Middle/High School was placed in lockdown June 9, following an alleged threat.

The enhanced security follows the mass school shooting in Texas and a school lockdown at Clatskanie Middle/High School (CMHS) Thursday morning, June 9.

Hurowitz said the lockdown occurred after one student reported to an adult off campus that there was another student at the school with a gun in their backpack. The adult immediately sent a text message to a CMHS staff member who quickly showed the message to Principal Jeff Williamson.

"At that point and because of all that is going on in the county and the nation,  we immediately placed the building in lockdown and we immediately called the the sheriff's office," CMHS Principal Jeff Williamson said.

As the building was placed in lockdown, school officials alerted parents by email, text and with phone message.

"Typically, we request that parents don't come to the school until it is all clear," he said.

During the time of the threat notification, the majority of the students had gathered in the school auditorium, the gymnasium and the cafeteria for the CMHS's year-end awards presentations.

Williamson said he was able to find and isolate the student involved in the alleged threat.

"I was making sure all the doors were locked and everything was secure and when I found the student, I did a limited pat down and I felt comfortable that the student didn't have anything (of a threatening nature)," he said. "The student also denied that there was a backpack."

Columbia County Sheriff Brian Pixley said as deputies responded to school they were advised there was a student that potentially was armed on campus.

"The school went into lockdown as a precaution and we responded to investigate," Pixley said. "There were no injuries involved and no weapon was located."

As the deputies at the school, they reviewed school security tapes showing that the student alleged to have a weapon entering the building and that student did not have a backpack, according to Williamson.

"We brought in the student's parents in and I determined that the student did not pose any threat, Williamson said. "The lockdown was precautionary."

Pixley told The Chronicle the incident was still under investigation as of Monday, June 13.

Social media impact

Hurowitz said as the lockdown unfolded, she was made aware of disturbing posts on social media.

"During this event there were people posting the location of our students on Facebook," she said. "Had this been a real event they just put all the children and the staff in jeopardy by identifying their location. It made me feel sick to my stomach. I was shocked that people were having that conversation on social media."

Under the school district's policy, when a potential school threat occurs, the school does not publicly disclose where the students and staff are. It is a matter for safety for the students and school staff, according to Hurowitz.

Williamson said he was aware of social media chatter in which some people were posting the location of the students in the building during the lockdown.

"For the safety of our students, people should never do that," he said.

Williamson said the social media posts impacted the school security.

"They need to be cautious," Williamson said. "Students were at risk. We will do everything possible to maintain safety and we don't want that jeopardize in any way."

As the lockdown was lifted, a lock-in remained in place at CMHS.

"The lock-in allows students to move freely within the building but the staff remains on high alert," Williamson said. "That gives us better control to release the students to parents."

Approximately 30 students were called to the office to be signed out by school staff and each of the students were released through the front door to their parents.

"It is an effective control," he said. "In my training you never know if there is another risk. That is the reason the deputies kept the school in a lock-in."

Following the lifting of the lock-in, the remaining students, approximately 160, were released from the school.

Thursday, June 9, was the last day of school at CMHS before the summer break. The day had been scheduled as a half day for students, including the awards ceremonies and a school barbeque, which was cancelled due to the lockdown.

"It is a terrible way for the kids to end the last day of school," Hurowitz said. "It was supposed to be a day of celebration with kids saying goodbye. This is the saddest way to end the last day of school."

Williamson said new security measures are being placed at the school during its bond measure renovations, including a new student, staff and visitor check-in system and enhanced camera surveillance.

St. Helens, Scappoose School District reaction

One day after the Clatskanie lockdown, the Texas mass shooting was one of the focal points during the St. Helens High School (SHHS) graduation ceremonies. A SHHS student speaker condemned the increase in school gun violence as the student spoke before those attending the Friday night graduation at the school's stadium.

On Monday, May 23, the Scappoose School Board considered revising its Weapons in Schools policy and enacting new policy that would restrict the use of firearms on campus.

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