Ashland High School went into 15-minute lockdown after what turned out to be a ‘swatting’ call
By Kevin Opsahl, Rogue Valley Tribune
Police in Southern Oregon received several anonymous phone calls Tuesday reporting school shootings that turned out to be false.
Around 8:33 a.m., Jackson County dispatch received a call claiming that a shooting had occurred at Ashland High School. A few minutes later, at 8:46 a.m., a call from the same number reported a shooting at South Medford High School.
Later in the morning, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said it had received reports of an active shooter at various Douglas County schools, which spurred a lockdown at all of the district’s schools. The lockdowns were lifted mid-afternoon Tuesday. Ashland High School also went into lockdown.
Ashland and Medford school districts posted notices about the swatting calls on their websites Tuesday.
Ashland High School’s issued a statement Tuesday morning saying: “AHS went on a precautionary lockout for about 15 minutes this morning. The lockout is now lifted and our campus is safe. Ashland Police Department arrived to campus acting on a tip that they had received about our campus. Administration immediately put the school on lockout as a precautionary measure. We were able to quickly determine that the tip was false and verified that all students and classes were in fact safe. Lockout was lifted and normal school activities have resumed. There was never an actual threat to campus today.
“Our staff and students did a wonderful job acting quickly and locking out our campus to give administration and APD time to verify that campus was in fact safe. Again, all students and staff are safe and there was never an actual danger.”
“They were very suspicious in nature in the way they came out,” Medford police Lt. Geoff Kirkpatrick said of the calls in a news conference Tuesday. “Let me be very clear that when we get a call of something that’s happening in the school, it’s taken extremely seriously and acted on very quickly.”
The false reports, referred to as swatting, have become commonplace across the country in recent months. South Medford experienced a swatting call last September. And before Tuesday’s calls materialized, police had notified local school officials that swatting was on the rise nationwide.
Kirkpatrick said Medford police were aware of the false report in Ashland and began communicating with its own school resource officers even before the call about South Medford came in.
“Our SROs had already begun looking through their schools and were on top of things,” Kirkpatrick said. “They were able to quickly determine that nothing was occurring at the school, as it was being reported by the caller.”
South Medford did not go into lockdown in response to the false threat, according to Ron Havniear, executive director of facilities, security and leadership for the Medford School District.
“Obviously, this is still the collective fear for students and their families — and an unnecessary disruption,” Havniear said. “We just want to manage that as best we can, and keep it at bay, and keep the main thing, and that is teaching and learning and safety of our staff and students.”
Eagle Point School District, which did not receive a swatting call Tuesday, held recess for its elementary schools and lunch for middle schools indoors out of “an abundance of caution.”
Kirkpatrick said the follow-up to the Tuesday incidents would be a multi-agency effort.
“There’s a bunch of jurisdictions at play here. All of these folks have to be communicating with each other to figure out … what we’re able to get through computer records and then phone records and working with a prosecutor to go from there,” Kirkpatrick said.
Swatting “takes away from the time of things that are actually occurring — the things they need to be paying attention to,” Kirkpatrick said.
“We were able to notify our leadership team earlier this month,” Havniear said. “Unfortunately we live in a world where this occurs … but we want to keep education the main focus.”
Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at email@example.com. This story first appeared in the Rogue Valley Tribune. Ashland.news Executive Editor Bert Etling contributed to this report. Email Etling at firstname.lastname@example.org.