All nine Marshall ISD campuses spent less than an hour on lockdown again on Friday after the same suspected caller issued a series of threatening phone calls against two of the district’s campuses for the second day in a row.
Marshall High School and the nearby Marshall ISD administration building received four threatening phone calls on Thursday and then again on Friday morning, prompting a district-wide lockdown that was later changed to a “soft” lockdown before all of them were lifted completely just before noon Friday.
Marshall PD and Marshall ISD PD are serving as lead investigators in the case, with other local law enforcement agencies on assist, Marshall ISD Spokesman David Weaver said.
No arrests had been made by the time this article published on Friday evening.
Though Marshall ISD Superintendent Jerry Gibson said all students and staff were safe at all times on Thursday and Friday and the lockdowns were a precaution, parents on social media expressed frustration and fear after the lockdowns were called for the second day in a row.
“This is getting so ridiculous. I as a parent get nervous and sick to get these kind of phone calls because a lot goes through my mind,” Dana Lucero Oviedo posted on the News Messenger’s Facebook page Friday. “People out there need to grow up. It’s not a joke to us parents that have kids in school. A parent can’t even work well knowing something might happen.”
Weaver said on Thursday the four threatening calls all came from the same caller.
“Marshall ISD Police and other law enforcement agencies continue to investigate the source and circumstances of (the) series of threatening phone calls made to both Marshall High School and Marshall ISD Administration Building,” Gibson said in a statement on Friday. “We will continue this investigation and follow every lead, and ultimately we will prosecute anyone found to be responsible.”
Gibson denied that any Marshall ISD employees or their families were responsible or involved in the threatening calls.
“Absolutely not,” Gibson said. “We are confident that this threat did not originate from any Marshall ISD employee or any member of their family.”
Gibson said the district’s main goal is keeping students and staff safe.
“I am proud of the reactions and behavior of all our staff, administration and students during the lockdown,” Gibson said. “Our number one priority, every day here in Marshall ISD, is to keep our students and employees safe. We realize for some of our students that this can be an intense time, but our teachers and staff are trained to protect and serve our children, with the number one goal of assuring their safety. Once we assessed the situation we deemed it was necessary to go ahead and place all of our facilities on lockdown and on alert, although the only direct calls were made to Marshall High School and our Marshall ISD Administration Building.”
Friday’s lock down began about 10:45 a.m. and ended by about 11:30 a.m.
The lockdown on Thursday began just after 11 a.m. and was completely called off about 12:30 p.m. Thursday.
Gibson said the lockdowns were necessary to keep students safe while law enforcement investigated the threat.
“I know as a parent, it’s very frustrating and it’s very hard but it’s the best thing we can do to keep our students, your children safe,” Gibson said Thursday. “There was never any harm and no one entered the building or the campus. We are investigating all leads at the time and if something turns up, we will as a school district prosecute anyone to the full extent of the law.”
Marshall ISD Police Chief Joe Arledge developed a crisis response plan for the district and each of its campuses last year.
The plan Arledge devised, with the help of city and county first responders, proved to be so comprehensive that Harrison County Sheriff Tom McCool later instructed his department to implement a version of Arledge’s plan for other Harrison County school districts.
“With all of the recent events in our nation, like the school shootings, my thoughts were, if we had an organized plan, that everybody knew what they were supposed to do, then it wouldn’t just be mass chaos should something happen,” Arledge said last year. “If, God forbid, we have an incident on campus and we have 40 to 50 officers show up from different agencies and there’s no plan, it would be chaos. This plan gives everybody an idea of where they need to be and what they need to be doing.”
The plan consists of immediately addressing the threat, including securing students and terminating the threat as soon as possible, as well as outlining which agencies will handle what and where command posts will be set up for media and other groups, Arledge said. Then comes the plan for after the incident, which includes a full investigation being conducted and completed and the school being deemed safe for operation again.
The district’s communication team would be responsible for notifying parents, after students are secured and the threat is addressed, Arledge said.
Marshall ISD posted several updates on its Facebook page on Thursday and Friday as the lock down status changed and sent out an all call to parents shortly after the first lock down began.