www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/carroll/eldersburg-sykesville/ph-ce-police-surround-south-carroll-high-school-20140320,0,2887180.story

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Police: Threat at South Carroll High School promised 'shooting and chaos'

School reopens on Friday

By Blair Ames, bames@tribune.com

1:45 PM EDT, March 21, 2014

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South Carroll High School reopened on Friday after being on lockdown for about 4 1/2 hours Thursday after police said numerous threats were made by phone that there would be "shooting and chaos."

After surrounding the school with a police presence that included the Carroll County Sheriff's Office, Maryland State Police and Sykesville Police, and searching inside and outside the school, students and staff were allowed to go home at about 6:50 p.m. Dismissal is normally at 2:20 p.m.

Police said no one was injured and no weapons were found at the school.

During a news conferences early Thursday evening, Sheriff's Office spokesman Col. Phil Kasten said there was "no reason to believe the threat is credible at this time."

Kasten said investigators are following several leads into who placed the seven threatening phone calls to school and police officials.

He also said there would be an increased police presence at all schools Friday. Students were allowed back inside South Carroll as early as 7 a.m. Friday to retrieve items left overnight.

"We want our parents and students to be ensured that our schools are safe to return to," Kasten said.

Superintendent Steve Guthrie praised South Carroll's staff.

"Our staff rose above and beyond today," he said at Thursday's news conference. "It was a long day for everyone and their main concern was to keep their students safe."

A student was arrested Thursday, but that was unrelated to the lockdown, Kasten said.

The student was found with a small amount of marijuana, he said.

Police responded to South Carroll after reports of a "non-specific threat" a little after 2 p.m.

As of 6:15, police were still taking K-9 units in and out of the school.

Parents who gathered outside South Carroll said their children were "calm" and "fine" inside after receiving text messages from them.

Marisa Wardell, whose son is a junior, said anxiety set in as soon as she saw police surrounding the high school.

"You feel like your hands are tied, to have someone else in charge of your child's safety," she said. "It's an unnatural feeling for a mother."

Greg Wroten, whose daughters are sophomores, said he was "disgusted" with the situation.

"My kids shouldn't have to go through this to get an education," he said.

Larissa Graham said it was nerve-wracking waiting to see her daughter, but said she seemed to be doing OK based on her text messages. "She's annoyed that it has delayed her arrival home," Graham said.

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The following message was sent to parents by Guthrie on Friday:

Dear Parents,

Thanks to you and all of our students and staff for your patience and understanding as we worked through a very difficult time at South Carroll High School yesterday afternoon. Before I provide details regarding the events of yesterday, I would like to emphasize that student safety was a priority at all times and at no time were students put in harm's way. The school system fully cooperated with law enforcement, and I would like to extend my sincere thank you and appreciation to the Carroll County police officers and our regional partners for the measures they took to keep our students and staff safe and secure.

Here is a summary of the events that took place yesterday:

At approximately 2:18 p.m. Carroll County Sheriff's deputies, along with the Maryland State Police and the Sykesville Police Department, responded to a series of anonymous phone calls indicating that harm was going to come to students at South Carroll High School.

All of this information was coming in at dismissal time and the busses were already at the school. In accordance with school procedures, the school was placed on lockdown and students were kept in the classrooms. Based upon the available information, the Sheriff's Office and school officials agreed to delay the school buses, re-routing them to the middle and elementary school routes before having them return for the high school students.

Tactical and K-9 teams from the Carroll County Sheriff's Office, Maryland State Police, and numerous regional area law enforcement partners all responded to assist with the search of the building and to ensure the safety of the students and staff.

Students stayed in their classrooms during the search. After they secured the school, the police decided to search each of the 1,000 students at the school. They went classroom by classroom. Once a classroom was cleared, the students were escorted to the gym. No weapons of any kind were found.

This whole process ended about 7:15 p.m. and students were dismissed to their busses, cars, and waiting parents.  The police stayed to search the backpacks the students left behind and scan the school one more time for any bombs.  At the end of the incident, the police determined that the threat was not credible and students were never in any danger.

Investigators from the Carroll County Sheriff's Office are in the process of following up on all available leads. While they will continue to search out the person responsible for this incident, this threat does not appear to be credible at this time. There were no injuries associated with this incident.

South Carroll High School resumed classes this morning. The Carroll County Sheriff's Office and Maryland State Police will be providing additional patrols at Carroll schools today.

I have received some complaints from parents regarding the lack of specific information provided to parents while students were in the building.  Being a parent of a high school student, I certainly understand that concern resulting in increased anxiety.  However, please understand that his incident was being investigated while students were in the building and information about the incident was subject to change at a moment's notice.  It was imperative that we followed the same procedures as the police that rather than communicate incomplete or incorrect information, wait until we are sure of the information and then communicated it out at the same time.  This procedure was followed yesterday.

Thanks again for your patience and the well wishes we received from the community.

Steve