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Washington School Principal Followed Procedure During Lockdown, District Says

Police ordered school lockdown after report of a possible gunshot in the area.

While parents are questioning how long it took to be notified about a lockdown at their children’s elementary school earlier this week, Caldwell-West Caldwell school officials are saying proper procedures were followed.

West Caldwell Police instructed school officials to lockdown Washington Elementary School for about an hour Tuesday afternoon after receiving a report of a possible gunshot in the area.

Doors were locked and children and staff members were ordered to stay in place from about 1 to 2 p.m., while police conducted an investigation. Two officers were sent to the school to assist with the lockdown and relay information between the principal and the police.

“During a lockdown, there cannot be communications from within the school with anyone other than the local law enforcement officials,” Christine Corliss, a representative for Caldwell-West Caldwell Schools, explained. “This did occur as per procedure.”

The school re-opened at about 2 p.m. and an email was sent home to parents just after 4 p.m.

"As a parent, my confidence in the school I trust to provide safety to my children while in their care has been severely compromised," said a parent who did not wish to be identified. "These are our children...We deserved immediate notification."

During the lockdown, the district responded to a request for information from a local news website with a statement from Superintendent James Heinegg.

One of the concerns parents expressed is that they learned about the lockdown from the website before they heard from the school principal.

"The principal's only concern during lockdown is the safety of the students," according to the district, adding it is up to representatives of the district outside the school to communicate to the public if possible. 

The district further explained that the email was not sent because of the news article, but rather as part of standard procedure.

“The school did not provide a letter to parents because it appeared in the Patch, but rather the letter is standard protocol following the event,” the representative for the district explained. “The letter could not go out until the school was out of lockdown and the process complete.”

Some parents were immediately aware of the situation because they were at the school for a winter concert. When the lockdown was ordered, the parents were told to wait outside on the sidewalk, but the concert was ultimately postponed.

The incident at Washington School comes at a time when parents and school officials are on edge after a mass shooting last Friday in Newtown, Conn. killed 26 people, including 20 children. 

Judi December 20, 2012 at 10:06 PM
All this for a car back firing ? The police in this town need to stop overreacting . They are probably board.
Matt R December 21, 2012 at 01:57 AM
"These are our children...We deserved immediate notification." I disagree. An immediate notification would certainly have caused panic among many parents. If this were an incident where there was an actual threat, the last thing the police need to worry about is panic stricken parents showing up at the school. They need to focus on the threat. If there was an active shooter, the parents would become the next targets. The school did exactly what they were supposed to do. The doors were locked and the students moved to safe locations. To those parents who are upset they learned about this via Patch, and not the school, I have this to say: The media is responsible for knowing what is going on around the area. They monitor police radio transmissions and rely on sources to provide them with info. Because they are not involved in investigating an active threat, they have plenty of time to jump on Twitter, Facebook and all the other internet sites to post updates as they were happening. If the district policy is to cease all communications during a lockdown, with the exception of communicating with law enforcement, then that includes sending out emails, texts etc. If anyone feels the safety of their children at this school has been severely compromised, as one parent stated, I would like to know why you think that.
Denise Pecora December 21, 2012 at 01:09 PM
I understand parents are upset. I feel the school put our children first and that is all a parent could ask for. The only thing I disagree with is that during the storm we received a bunch of texts through our new Honeywell system. As I understand the school could not communicate with us during the lockdown, I do feel a text should have gone out to the parents immediately following through the Honeywell system letting us know what occurred and that our children were ok. With that being said, I am sure this incident can be used as learning experience for district in case another emergency should arise. Let’s all just be grateful that it was nothing
Emarald December 21, 2012 at 01:51 PM
It is Bored not "Board". In this day and age it's unfortunate that things can not be taken lightly and must be investigated in these thorough and sometimes extreme manners. What if the police had been lazy in their response and our children were in actual danger? I for one am glad that the police had our children's and teacher's safety in mind when they received the report of a possible gun shot. Was it a gun shot? Was it a car that back fired? Was it fire works? Who knows? It's crazy, but we can no longer take the chance and not take all precautions so that no one gets hurt.
Michael December 21, 2012 at 01:52 PM
My belief is that immediate notification should go to the parents. These are our children, and we as parents will decide what is the best action for the safety of our children. The school and Government seem to be taking more and more liberties to tell you, what food they will eat, how they will be disciplined, putting drugs in their bodies against the parents desire, forcing sex education out of the hands of parents, etc. etc. and now you are being told " while we have your kids, we will tell you what we want you to know, when we want you to know it." meanwhile the more they say they are safe the death toll gets higher and higher with each incident, younger and younger the children get into drugs and sex, and less safe our children are on the streets, banning guns is a laughable suggestion, its only a means to remove you more and more from self reliance, you ban guns and someone will use a bomb, remove chemicals and someone will use a car, get rid of cars someone will land a plane on the school, we didn't become a higher species by being brainless lib drones walking around going "duh" all day. when you present a challenge to these nut jobs they go out of their way to defeat it, sadly ...being a nut doesn't mean you're incapable, if that were the case we would have no left. you remember when kids played outside? those days are over people, Nazi Germany is in your backyard.
jennifer December 21, 2012 at 03:09 PM
You're not going to be able to please everyone. I would rather Washington Elementary School take proactive measures, than do nothing at all. Hopefully, over the course of time, there will be a better system developed to protect the staff and students at schools.
Charles Peterson December 21, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Great job reporting Patch - A few questions. What is Christine Corliss' official title? Have you contacted the Principal? She seems to be intimating at the school that she believes it is (was) the Superintendent's responsibility to contact parents.
Allison P December 21, 2012 at 06:53 PM
As a Washington School parent, I am happy with how the police and Mrs Adams handled the situation. It was the right thing to do and Mrs Adams (or any school principal) should not communicate with parents DURING a lockdown. But it is dissapointing to see through a "local news website" that the "district responded to a request for information during the lockdown". If the district is capable to communicate this information to the media DURING the lockdown, I believe the same respect should have been given to the parents of Washington School via the Honeywell system by a district representative that was not present in The school during this lockdown. Thankfully all our children are safe and ready for a nice holiday break.

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