Apr 07, 2014 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
Two days after the Cazenovia high school and middle school buildings endured a three-hour lockdown when live bullets were found in a high school hallway and later flushed down a toilet, local police and school district officials still don’t know how or why the bullets got into the school and ended up on the floor — what they all agree on, however, is that there were no guns involved, no malicious intent has been discovered, no students were in immediate danger and the overall situation was handled well by district staff and local police.
“No doubt it was nerve-racking for parents, but in the end our plan in this situation really worked well … I’m proud of the way the school, the administration and teachers, handled the situation,” said district Superintendent Bob Dubik. “Parents need to know that as inconvenient as this was, the school takes this seriously. We take seriously the safety of everybody involved and we’ll do what we need to do to ensure that.”
According to both Dubik and Cazenovia Police Chief Michael Hayes, the situation began at about 8:15 a.m. Last Friday, April 4, when two high school students reported to high school Principal Eric Schnabl that they had seen two bullets — believed to be live .22 caliber rounds — lying in a second floor high school hallway outside a classroom. The students went to inform Schnabl of what they had found, and when he arrived at the scene the bullets were gone.
At about 8:30 a.m. the school called Hayes, he arrived on the scene and by 8:45 a.m. both the middle and high schools — which are connected in one building — were put on lockdown as a precautionary measure, meaning all building access doors were locked, nobody was allowed in or out and all students were told to stay in the classrooms they were currently in.
“Even though this occurred in the high school, we locked down both buildings because we didn’t want any traffic going back and forth,” Dubik said.
“We decided as precautionary measure only to lock the school down, basically a stay in place,” Hayes said. “It was not an active shooter lockdown.”
By about 9:05 a.m., the district posted information about the lockdown on its website and both Schnabl and middle school Principal Jean Regan recorded emergency voicemail messages informing district parents of what was occurring, which were sent out to home telephones, cell phones and emails.
Hayes contacted the Utica and Syracuse city police departments and requested K9 dogs to come and investigate the buildings. Madison County Sheriff’s Office deputies also arrived on scene.
While waiting for the K9 units to arrive, district administrators heard “a couple of names come up” of students who may have picked up the bullets. They investigated and interviewed a few students but no specific information was discovered.
At about 10:15 a.m., a student told Schnabl that he had found the bullets on the floor, “knew they should not have been there,” picked them up and flushed them down a toilet. Administrators and Cazenovia police believed the information to be credible, but, since the K9 units were already on their way to the school, they decided to continue the lockdown and follow through with the investigation. The three K9 units did a locker and room-by-room search of the building and found no evidence of ammunition or weapons.
“Had there been any ammunition, the dogs would have found it,” Dubik said.
By 11:20 a.m., the lockdown was ended and students were permitted to start their lunch periods; and by 12:15 p.m. the investigation was completed. Students resumed their lunch schedule and all students were released on time. Parents who wanted to take their children home before the end of the school day — but after the lockdown was over — were allowed to do so.
Dubik said that at the end of the day Friday, district administrators talked to all the buildings’ teachers and staff about the incident, and planned to speak to them again on Monday, April 7, just to review what happened, how everyone reacted and what, if anything, needs to be addressed or corrected in the future concerning the district’s emergency procedures. Overall, he said, all the students, teachers and administrators did a “great job.”
The incident did, however, bring to light a few minor issues with the district’s emergency response system that they will begin addressing immediately, Dubik said. These include the fact that Dubik’s recorded emergency message sent out to parents was sent only to homes and not to parents’ cell phones or emails as they should have. Also, it was discovered that some of the security cameras inside the school were not positioned exactly right to see all angles and those will be addressed as well.
Hayes agreed and said that if there is a silver lining to the event it is that the “holes” in the district’s security response were discovered and his department will work with the district to fix them.
Hayes said the case remains open and his department will continue to work with the school district on it.
“My staff responded beyond any of my expectations, and obviously it’s a good thing to know we’ve got good partners with Utica, Madison County and Syracuse city [law enforcement],” he said. In fact, every local law enforcement agency in the vicinity offered to respond and give Cazenovia aid – “That feels good,” Hayes said.
As for how and why the bullets ended up in the school or on the hallway floor, both Dubik and Hayes said they have “no idea.”
“I can’t even begin to think reasons why — is someone trying to test us? Were they in a kids’s pocket and fell out? I don’t know,” Dubik said.
“Most likely it was a kid who is hunter who brought the wrong backpack to school [and the bullets fell out], but in this day and age you can’t assume anything,” Hayes said.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.