Students and parents had an emotional reunion Wednesday after a false report of a gun spurred a lockdown at Carson Middle School.
Hundreds of parents — some of whom had been anxiously waiting more than two hours — cheered as the first student walked out of the school shortly after 3:40 p.m.
“It’s great to have him,” said Jim McCleary, hugging his 12-year-old son, Connor, and kissing his forehead. “I flew from work 100 mph to get here. It’s my worst nightmare.”
A report came in to the school at 1:06 p.m. that a boy was confronted with a gun in a bathroom, said Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong. The school of about 1,200 students went on lockdown, with students required to stay in their classrooms. A physical education class that was outside at the time was evacuated to the school district office next door.
“Right off the bat, the school implemented practices to safeguard students,” Furlong said.
A 12-year-old told two friends he saw the boys loading a gun in a bathroom and they threatened to shoot him if he said anything. He asked his friends to tell the teacher, Furlong said. When the boy was taken to the police station for questioning, Furlong said, he confessed to lying. He was arrested for allegedly filing a false report.
“All of it was completely false,” Furlong said. “There was no weapon. There was no altercation.”
Although the report turned out to be unfounded, the school district and sheriff’s office responded properly, Furlong said.
“Under no circumstances would you try to blow that type of a report off,” he said. “With the current climate in schools, you have to take it seriously.”
The Nevada Highway Patrol assisted the sheriff’s office, as did state and local probation officers and the Carson City Fire Department. Streets around the school were closed off, and armed officers secured the perimeter of the campus. Police entered the building with guns drawn.
Bryan McGill could only watch the scene in horror. He had arrived early to pick up his 14-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, to take her shopping for a graduation dress. He said he trusted that law enforcement officers were doing their job but worried what might be happening inside.
“Just hurry up,” he choked, trying to contain a sob.
Tears fell when he read a text message from his daughter: “I love you dad.”
Joe Cacioppo, school board trustee, joined the hundreds of other parents in the streets, waiting for word about their children.
“I wanted to make sure my daughter was safe,” he said. “Then I walked over to the school district office to offer my help. I was told the police had it under control.”
His wife, Michele, a kindergarten teacher at Bordewich-Bray Elementary School down the street, said she was comforted by the presence of the law enforcement officers.
“It was just nice they took it seriously,” she said. “It was good to see the SWAT team here.”
Their daughter Sophia said students weren’t sure what was going on at first.
“We were all down on the floor and our teacher let us get our phones to text our parents,” she said. “When we realized it wasn’t a drill, we were scared.”
Students were held inside and released one by one to their parents or guardians.
Superintendent Richard Stokes communicated via loudspeaker to parents gathered in the street, asking for their patience and cooperation.
“The kids are all fine,” he said. “I want to assure you your kids are safe. We took no chances. The next step is to get you reunited with your children.”
Stokes said the district had considered an automated called to Carson Middle School parents, but decided against it because information coming from inside the school was rapidly changing.
Furlong said parents were key in controlling the potential chaos.
“Today, our parents and families aided greatly by forming at designated areas and being readily available as classrooms were methodically dismissed and students safely moved to key areas for release to their parents,” he said. “Although many students and parents exhibited significant emotional trauma caused by this event, there were no injuries reported.”
Connor McCleary, the first student to leave the school, said he went on high alert.
“I felt scared for my classmates,” he said. “I would do whatever I had to do to keep them safe.”