Threat to employee prompts lock down of North Whidbey Middle School

North Whidbey Middle School was locked down for 35 minutes Wednesday after a school employee received a threat from a person off campus.

Although the threat was unrelated to school, officials notified the Oak Harbor Police Department and took the precautionary step of locking exterior doors, placing the building into a modified lockdown, according to Oak Harbor School District Superintendent Lance Gibbon.

Once police arrived, evaluated the situation and determined students were not targeted in the threat, students were released at 2:35 p.m., five minutes later than normal dismissal, Gibbon said. After-school activities at the school were canceled as another precautionary measure.

Gibbon said police found and detained the person responsible for the threat.

“Obviously, any time we receive any kind of threat or potential threat of harm toward a school or anyone in a school, that’s going to be taken seriously,” Gibbon said.

“The initial decision to lock down is going to be made at the building level. They are going to use their judgment and err on the side of being safe.”

Gibbon emphasized those points in an email he sent to all families in the school district. Assistant superintendent Karst Brandsma sent phone messages to notify families from North Whidbey Middle School.

Gibbon said a modified lockdown is a precautionary measure where exterior doors are locked but school continues as usual inside.

When a threat is more immediate, schools can go into a more critical full lockdown where classroom doors are locked.

Gibbon said he was pleased with how North Whidbey Middle School administrators and Oak Harbor police handled the matter swiftly and thoroughly. Police remained on campus and monitored the situation while students were dismissed.

“In this case, I think everything was handled in a very calm, orderly fashion,” Gibbon said.

“Obviously, this was just a precaution. Truly, student safety is our top priority. We will err on the side of safety, even if it’s not specific. We will be cautious and make sure our students and staff are safe.”


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