Do you remember where you where when you heard about the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado?
I was in my economics class my junior year at Davenport’s Central High School. At that time, using the Internet in class was just starting to happen. My class was researching healthcare in foreign countries when a pop-up window on the computer screen announced the shooting.
My classmates and I read about what was happening but sat there in shock. One of us asked if this was really happening. A few minutes later my principal, Henry Caudle Sr., addressed the school. I still remember him, in tears, telling us school should be a safe place for everyone
Later, I would find out one of my science teacher’s nieces was at Columbine the day of the shooting. When I saw that teacher the next day, I asked if he was OK. He was surprised when I asked him and wondered why I did.
I told him I overheard the principal saying his niece went to school at Columbine High School. My science teacher shook his head yes. He told him his niece was OK physically but mentally she was traumatized. I told him I would be to and left it at that.
I wish I could say my school was never locked down for weapons on campus, but it was. There was the time Sudlow Intermediate School was locked down because someone had robbed the bank nearby, was armed and was found on school property.
When I was a freshman in high school, someone threatened to shoot someone at school. The school was locked down for several hours while the police, sheriff’s department and Iowa State Patrol interviewed students and searched lockers for weapons.
After a while, it was normal for rumors about a threat of a gun, knife or bomb to be talked about. Several bomb threats came in when President Clinton visited Central High School in 2000.
I usually laughed them off because nothing ever happened. I was a teenager thinking nothing could happen to me, and no one would do something like that to a school. Looking back, I wish I had taken it more seriously.
As a parent, I finally realized threats of weapons or lockdowns of schools were serious. My children had to deal with their school being locked down several times. There were a few guns found on students on campus.
One student had a gun in his vehicle after hunting the night before. He was suspended for brining weapons on campus. Another student had a gun in his book bag and was showing it off to students. Several students saw it and reported it right away. The student was expelled for bringing a gun on campus. I found out later he had threatened to shoot someone the night before.
When my youngest was in seventh grade, the Washington Community School District cancelled school because of a threat. A student reported a threat they saw on Snapchat about someone wanting to do a mass shooting at the high school. The superintendent decided to cancel school for everyone’s safety that day.
I was working at the newspaper in town, so I had to go right to work reporting about the incident. I remember calling my husband to come get our son, calling my publisher, and the superintendent to ask him if this was a real situation.
The situation turned out to be a hoax and several students were charged as juveniles for making false accusations. For several weeks after that, my son was asking me about what had happened and was mad about the situation. He couldn’t believe someone would cause this.
False swatting reports occur every day in America. A swatting is a phony call about an active shooting.
In Iowa, several school districts in March were swatted. Muscatine High School was one of them. I was listening to the police scanner while it was happening and texted West Liberty Police Chief Eric Werling. He told me it was a swatting call and he had already contacted the school district here to let them know this was happening across the state.
I have family in the Muscatine School District. My niece is an art teacher at the middle school. She told me her principal was in her classroom when the call came through. The look on her principal’s face was something she said she would never forget. She said it was a look you never want to see.
Shootings seem to be happening in our country every week, and swattings even more often.
Monday, April 16, there was a report of a shooting at a high school near Indianapolis that turned out to be false.
Swatting is cruel, plain and simple. It causes terror among the students, families and everyone working in that school district. Swatting also draws first responders that could be needed elsewhere.
My hope is people who do the swatting get caught and charged. But most of the time it’s an anonymous call that can’t be traced. This leaves the consequences of the swatting call on everyone else’s shoulders.
Every call is insinuating a shooting has to be taken seriously. It’s sad that we live in a world where people have to ask if the threat of a shooting is real.
West Liberty Index Editor