COVENTRY, R.I. (WPRI) — All Coventry High School students are “home safe” after reports of a possible threat led to a lockdown and extensive search Monday afternoon.
According to Assistant Superintendent Don Cowart, it all started around 11:45 a.m. when someone was overheard saying “he has a gun” as students passed between classes. It was first reported by a teacher, Cowart said, then some students followed.
The school was first put on “pass restriction,” meaning students are kept inside their current classrooms with their teachers, but Cowart said after some investigating, officials decided to call police and call for a full lockdown.
When they were unable to identify who made the statement about the gun, Coventry Police Chief Frederick Heise said they decided to conduct a sweep of the building and search all of the students and their belongings.
No weapons were found, according to Heise.
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As students were searched one by one, they were shuttled over to a satellite lot on Tiogue Avenue where their parents and guardians could pick them up. Many had already arrived after learning of the situation through text messages from their kids.
Cowart said an email from Principal Brooke Macomber went out to families 15 to 20 minutes after the school went into lockdown.
“Our first priority is to make sure all students are in their classrooms with their teachers, nobody is in the hallway, the campus is secure, nobody is coming in or out. Once we did that, we started putting the email together,” he explained when asked by 12 News about the delay. “As you can imagine, in a hectic situation, the email evolves. You don’t want a situation where you are sending emails to nervous parents, one after another in rapid fire. That just makes people more uncertain about how things are being handled.”
Aside from the students taken to the satellite lot, some were sent home on their regular bus, according to Cowart, while others were escorted to their vehicles so they could drive home. He said the last student at the school was cleared by 4 p.m. and the satellite lot was empty by 4:30 p.m.
“There’s almost 1,500 kids in this building, a few hundred adults, so to do a search person-by-person takes time, and the facility itself is large,” he said. “We had to make some decisions about how we secure the students who have been searched, and then make decisions on how we dismiss those students.”
While there will be an increased police presence at the school on Tuesday, officials say it’s expected to be a normal day otherwise. Capt. Matthew Blair said he’s confident students can safely return, especially since ballistic dogs trained to detect firearms were used in the search.
The student who said “he has a gun” has not been identified, so no arrests have been made at this time. Police said that person could face a disorderly conduct charge, along with a suspension from school.