Follow up 1/20/17 5:00 p.m.
The safety of our students is a top priority for St. Mary Catholic Schools, and keeping our school community informed is also an important goal. Therefore, I am writing to follow up on the circumstances surrounding the closure of our middle and high schools on Thursday, January 19.
First, below please find the text of the media release that was issued by the Village of Fox Crossing earlier this morning.
During the hours following the cancellation of school yesterday, investigators were able to complete the pieces of this puzzle and determine that there was no intent to cause harm or disrupt school activities.
There were a series of photos, videos and text messages sent via Snapchat and Instagram from a 20-year old man to a 16-year old student showing pictures and videos of the man inside of St. Mary’s Middle School that evening and a message that there would be ‘round 2 tomorrow’.
After checking the schools and finding the two unsecured doors along with not knowing where the man was who sent the messages, the concern for something to occur became more heightened and investigators and school personnel were contacted. With the information at the time, school personnel made the decision to cancel classes at the middle and high school.
The man was located around the same time and brought into the police department where investigators spoke with him. The man was very cooperative with investigators and forthcoming with information. It was learned that he had been in the school legitimately for a basketball game earlier that evening. Based upon the conversation with him it was determined that there was no intent to cause harm.
Investigators also spoke with the 16-year old female student who reported the incident and were able to ascertain information that was not immediately presented at the time of the initial call. They were able to view the entire series of messages and realized that the context was different than what was initially shared.
Once all of this information was developed, it is the belief of investigators that there was no intent to cause harm or disrupt school activities. At this time there will be no charges filed with regards to this case.
Second, it is important that we share information about the doors on our campus that were found unsecured by the police on Thursday. Upon learning this, our first reaction was “why, and how, did this happen?”
After troubleshooting, a design flaw was identified in the exterior door locks at the middle school of which we were previously unaware. We determined that when opened with a key rather than a fob (which is very seldom done), the door sometimes remained unlocked, unbeknownst to the person entering the building. When checked from the inside during routine security checks, the door appeared to be locked. Our maintenance crew investigated, and will install “lock out” pins that will cause the exterior doors to relock every time, whether opened with a fob or a key.
The door that was reported as being open at the high school was actually locked and latched. It was discovered that the lock mechanism on that door had worn over time, and that by shaking the door handle, the lock could be tripped. This lock mechanism has been fixed. All other exterior door locks were inspected, and all have been verified to be in proper working order.
We reconfirmed with the company that provides our cleaning and building maintenance the expectation that they do a “security sweep” each night by checking to be sure that all of the doors are locked. Neither of these situations, which have both been resolved, would have been caught during a routine interior check. In addition, the Village of Fox Crossing Police Department periodically checks the exterior doors of our buildings to ascertain that our buildings are secured.
Please be assured that the security of our students, faculty and staff is always first and foremost in our minds. We have securely locked facilities with buzz-in entrance and protocol for visitors at all locations. In light of our discoveries on the main campus, we will examine the doors at our elementary school locations to reassure ourselves and you that those buildings are also as secure as possible.
Many parents contacted us to say thank you and express appreciation for making wise decisions to ensure student safety on Thursday, and a few contacted us with questions about the circumstances. I am hopeful that this correspondence addresses those concerns, and that you feel confident in the knowledge that we take safety and security very seriously at St. Mary Catholic Schools.
update 1/19/17 8:50 a.m.
We are happy to report that we have been given the all-clear by the Village of Fox Crossing Police Department. Our middle school and high school building have been deemed safe; therefore, all after-school and co-curricular activities WILL be held as scheduled.
Below, please find the text of the press release that was sent out by the police department a short time ago:
On January 19, 2017 at 12:19am Fox Crossing officers were notified of a potential threat to the St. Mary School campus on Zephyr Dr. A series of social media messages were sent to a student that led the student and officers to believe that there might be an incident at the school later that day. As officers were checking the St. Mary High School and St. Mary Middle School they located an open door at each school.
School personnel were contacted and a search was done of each school. Due to the timing of this incident, the early stage of the investigation and out of the abundance of caution, St. Mary Catholic School’s personnel made the decision to cancel classes for the day until the safety of the students and staff could be assured.
At this time, the investigation is ensuing and investigators were able to locate the person that sent the messages were interviewing him as of 6am. The investigation is still occurring however at this time we feel that the schools and immediate area are no longer under a threat related to these messages.
Please be assured that the safety of our school community is always of the utmost concern, so we took this situation very seriously and acted accordingly. We very much appreciate the proactive and professional way in which the Village of Fox Crossing Police Department handled notifying us of the situation and following up.
Posted 1/19/17 at 5:40 a.m.
A credible threat was received early this morning, Thursday, January 19, 2017. The threat was in reference to something potentially taking place today at our middle and high school campus. In accordance with our emergency crisis plan, we are closing the middle school and high school campuses in an abundance of caution as law enforcement officials investigate the situation. Once the authorities have determined that the campuses are safe, we will notify you and return to our usual routine.
There is no threat to the elementary schools and those campuses are open today.
The safety of our school community is of the utmost importance and we appreciate your understanding.