Multiple threats to South Carroll lead to hours-long lockdown; investigation ongoing

A stressful afternoon ended peacefully Thursday evening as students at South Carroll High School were released to buses and crowds of waiting parents after being on a code red lockdown for nearly five hours.

Families breathed a sigh of relief when word came that there were no reported injuries but stood outside in the wind or waited in cars for hours for news of when their children would be allowed to leave the school.

The investigation into who made multiple threatening calls to the school and police is still ongoing, according to officials.

No credible threats to student safety were found, according to police after they swept the school during the lockdown. Seven calls threatening "shooting" and "chaos" were made shortly after 2 p.m., including one to the Maryland State Police Westminster Barrack, according to a news release from the sheriff's office.

Students were finally released at approximately 7 p.m. to buses, their parents or their cars, but they were not allowed to bring bags out with them. Students were told to leave backpacks and purses inside the building for further searches and were only permitted to remove essentials such as cell phones, wallets and keys.

The lockdown went into effect at approximately 2:18 p.m. Some seniors who are permitted to leave school early were returning to campus for after-school activities when the lockdown went into effect.

"I thought it was weird that kids weren't coming outside," said senior Tatiana Lewis, who was in the parking lot when she heard the lockdown announced.

"We really didn't know what was happening," said fellow senior Samantha Jones, who said that rumors of everything from a bomb threat to shots fired were being spread via text message and social media.

Many parents received text messages from their children alerting them to the situation.

Kathryn Weaver said her daughter, Lauren, sent her a message that the school was having a lockdown drill. Not long after, she received a message that said, "Nevermind. Not a drill."

Theresa Davis, whose daughter, Katlyn, is a freshman, said she received a text from her daughter at approximately 2:45 p.m.

"I freaked out. 'What happened? Are you okay?'" she said.

Georgetta Scales said she received near-simultaneous texts from her children, senior Brady and freshman Devin.

According to Devin, students were initially under the impression that the lockdown was a drill but treated it seriously.

"You heard kind of that [the announcer] was scared," she said.

Brady said he was walking past the school's main office shortly after 2 p.m. and noticed the large number of administrators gathered there.

"They all looked like they'd seen a ghost," he said. Shortly after, the lockdown was initiated and Brady said a teacher pulled him into a classroom and ordered him to sit down and be quiet while they waited for more information.

When that classroom was searched, Brady said, police "burst" through the door with guns drawn and swept the room for threats.

Devin said that because the school drills for emergencies regularly, even though the situation was scary, everyone seemed to know what to do and how to behave.

Parents and students who were in the school parking lot when the lockdown was called were initially told to shelter in place and remain in their vehicles when police arrived on the scene.

Kathryn Tevelow said she was waiting to pick up her son, junior Kevin, when she heard "code red" and "lockdown" come over the loudspeakers. Eventually, she said, police told parents to lock their vehicles and wait near the main road for more information.

Many parents kept waiting said they did not mind the duration of the lockdown.

"We want that, even though it's inconvenient," Weaver said, noting that law enforcement were being thorough and taking the threat seriously.

By 6 p.m., some parents were frustrated that they were being told that the building was clear but were not informed when their children would be released.

"It kind of feels like they're being held hostage right now and we don't have any authority as parents to say, 'Okay, I want my kid now,'" said Tevelow as parents waiting in a parking lot near the school.

Tevelow said she had not heard from her son but was not overly concerned.

"He follows the rules and doesn't use his phone in school," she said, adding that she might tell him that if a situation like a lockdown ever occurs again that it's probably okay for him to send her a text.

One arrest was made unrelated to the threats, according to the sheriff's office news release. A female student was found in possession of personal use quantities of marijuana during the search and has been charged.