False threat sends Webster Groves school district into lockdown


Webster Groves Police received an anonymous call Friday morning, Sept. 21, saying a student had been shot in the bathroom at an elementary school. A lockdown was then initiated in the schools where the incident could have happened.

Givens Elementary School, Steger Sixth Grade Center, Hixson Middle School and Webster Groves High School were on a lockdown that lasted less than an hour.

Cathy Vespereny, Chief Communications Officer for the Webster School District, said the superintendent got a call from the Webster Groves Police Department. They made a decision to lock down schools to ensure everyone’s safety.

Vespereny said  administrators checked every bathroom in the middle school, sixth-grade center, high school and elementary schools, and they did not find anything wrong.

Lieutenant Andy Miller, a public information officer at the Webster Groves Police Department, said the officers did not have a victim or specific location after they traced the phone call. They discovered it was a prank call from a juvenile, and they classified it as unfounded.

Briana Shawver, an adjunct sociology professor at Webster University, said numerous reasons could explain why this type of incident happened. She said the incident could have to do with the pressure children and teens face.

“I think kids are in a lot of pressure these days, to perform, to have a social life, to be someone they necessarily don’t want to be or what they feel like they should be,” Shawver said.

Shawver said that some kids cannot handle the pressure coming from their peers, teachers and parents. She said to prevent lockdowns and potential threats in schools, schools should teach kids how to cope with intimidation. Shawver said instead society just keep pushing them and not letting them show their emotions.

“I think schools need to invest more time into taking care of students outside their education,” Shawver said.

Vespereny said a prank call is challenging for school districts to deal with because there is not many ways to tackle it. She said the schools  are being cautious, and they reacted to make sure everyone was safe. She said there is a crisis plan for every school in place when the superintendent makes a decision  that can happen quickly on whether to take the precautionary measure of having a lockdown.

Vespereny said she is not certain what will happen next, but the teachers and students are trained to know what to do.

“One of our elementary [schools] is having an intruder drill,” Vespereny said. “So even the little kindergartners are learning how to do what they’re told when a threat is called in.”


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