Written by Taylor Wyllie and Kelsey McClear
When junior Jordan Gasper was told by a Birmingham police officer to leave the Seaholm premises and go home, he didn’t think twice. With a handful of friends, he turned his car around and went out for an extra 30 minutes of lunch.
The building was under lockdown due to an anonymous tip Birmingham Police received that a person in the building had a weapon on them.
“We came back to the lot, but people tweeted out we couldn’t get into the building,” Gasper said. “A police officer said go home, but no one really went home. We went out to lunch again.”
Gasper’s only connection to what was going on at the school was through Twitter, where he un-officially heard why the school was on lockdown.
“People were tweeting about [the lockdown],” Gasper said. “But there wasn’t an official [notice] until a teacher told me later that day.”
Twitter became a necessity for students who were curious about what was going on. When school security guard Dory Hicks joined the class in lockdown, hiding in the corner of junior Michael Shaben’s classroom, he began to use the social media site to seek answers.
“Oh good now the security guard has fallen asleep. #lockdown,” Shaben said in an April 8 tweet.
“I turned to Twitter because I had asked the guard what was happening and she was just as confused as I was,” Shaben said. “If the security guard doesn’t know then maybe someone who was out to lunch or in a different room would have some information.”
The Birmingham Patch, Hometown Life and Seaholm’s athletic trainer Bill “Allo” Watson also jumped on Twitter to share what they knew, and seek more information.
“@TheMapleForest maybe u already have been told, B’ham police received an anonymous call that a person had a gun in the building,” Watson said in a tweet on Monday April 8 while the school was on lockdown.
However, Twitter didn’t seem to hold any answers as most students felt left in the dark.
“I’ll be honest with you, I sent [the information about the lockdown] to the teachers and they can certainly share with [students],” Principal Dee Lancaster said. “I guess maybe I could [share the information with students] but my job is never done the moment we clear the lockdown there are hours and hours of other things that have to be done after. Yeah, I can encourage the teachers to share but it probably won’t be me.”
Lilia Mareski, a parent of three Seaholm students, said she understands the reluctance to tell students what’s happening as it’s happening. However, she said the administration should directly inform students once the lockdown is over.
“I don’t know if [students] should know about the situation at the time [of the lockdown],” Mareski said. “I feel like most people would panic and that might make the situation worse. I do feel like [students] should be informed when the situation is safe versus trying to deal with everybody’s emotions and reactions and things of that nature.”
Social Studies teacher Scott Craig stresses the importance of teachers knowing whether the lockdown is a drill or a real emergency.
“I think students and staff should be informed pretty quickly particularly whether this is a test or a real situation,” Craig said. “We really need to know that.”
While Craig understands that it is important to notify staff as soon as possible, he also understands that Lancaster can’t disclose anything that would compromise the police investigation.
Lancaster said her hands are tied when it comes to when she can share this information.
“I can’t share anything until I have been given the clearance from the police to share anything,” Lancaster said. “So it was about 15-20 minutes after we cleared the lockdown before I could share anything with the staff. It’s part of an investigation.”
The Highlander attempted to obtain the official police report through a Freedom of Information Act request, but was denied, on April 10, on the basis of the investigation was still ongoing. In addition, multiple phone calls to the Birmingham Police Commander Terry Keirnan were not returned by press time.
Lancaster said she has more important things to concentrate on than informing the masses.
“I can’t stop what I’m doing to let [teachers] know, nor should I,” Lancaster said. “My concern is [students’] safety, not making sure the teachers know what’s going on.”
Some teachers and students turned to the police to get the full story during the duration of the lockdown. According to Lancaster, they called 911.
Both Lancaster and Birmingham police urge students and staff not to do this again.
“We cannot call 911 to see what’s happening,” Lancaster said. “You have to trust us if we tell you it’s a lockdown then we are taking it seriously and keeping you as safe as we can.”
Not all students were that concerned. The lockdown on April 8, was the second lockdown at Seaholm in less than three weeks. This caused senior Haley Gumenick to become apathetic.
“The more [lockdowns] we have, the less effective it will be because the first one I feel like everyone took pretty seriously, and then the second one it was like a routine thing,” Gumenick said.
The manner in which the lockdown was conducted left some students questioning the effectiveness of lockdown procedures.
“I do not feel safe. They happen way too often,” sophomore Avery Campbell said. “I don’t know what is going on and I assume the worst case scenario every time.”
Some students do not treat the lockdown as a serious threat.
“I try to take the lockdowns seriously but they have become a common occurrence,” sophomore Alex Krivan said. “I think everyone has begun to think of them as a joke.”
“The lockdowns are not accurate at all,” freshman Kevin Muir said. “People are talking and it’s just a mess.”
Other students realized that the administration was handling the situation as best as they could.
“I think [the administration] is doing a pretty good job,” junior Sydney Hessen said. “I mean there’s not much you can do.”