TOPEKA (KSNT) – Some Topeka West High School parents tell 27 News they’re frustrated over a lapse in communication regarding an active shooter threat made to the school on social media Wednesday morning.
In an email sent to staff and families at 7:50 a.m., the school announced classes would have a delayed start at 9 a.m. instead of 8 a.m. to allow law enforcement time to secure the campus. Students who were already in the building were locked down while the building was inspected by local authorities.
According to concerned parent Amy Smith, her son was allowed to drive onto campus at 7:55 a.m. She said he was not made aware of anything before being taken into class and then put into lockdown.
“They didn’t release him until 10:20 a.m.,” Smith said. “I wasn’t even made aware (of the threat) until about 8:40 a.m. And I called into the school and they said they weren’t letting them out until 9 a.m. It took them an hour and 15 minutes to get out.”
Any threats received before school opens require staff to be prepared to ensure students have a safe place to go, according to Topeka Public Schools Senior Communications Specialist Daniel Garrett. He said the school remained in a secure campus status until authorities confirmed it was safe to proceed with the day.
“The district acts as quickly as possible to notify families,” Garrett said. “As the safety of our students and staff is our top priority and we work in cooperation with law enforcement to place additional officers at the school.”
Another concerned parent, Rebecca Rice, said there was a huge gap in communication between the school and parents. Rice said she was confused because teachers and officers weren’t telling parents about the threat when dropping off their kids in the circle drive.
“Huge gap in communication,” Rice said. “I received the email after dropping my freshman off for class. Not sure why there wasn’t a text sent out… My freshman says the teachers are still opening and closing doors to buildings. And she has to be escorted to the gate for me to pick her up. But the kids are walking around freely, class to class.”
The email notification system is used when parents need to be notified about an issue immediately, according to Garrett. The email was sent to parents by the principal through the standard messaging system.
If a student is marked absent from a class, the school sends out an automated phone call to let the parents know they missed class, according to parent Ryan Ogle. Ogle said he received a text saying his son missed the first hour of school. Ogle said the automated texting system could’ve been used to inform parents of the threat.
Garret said Topeka West Principal John Buckendorf confirmed attendance is addressed through a daily automated system. He ensured the attendance for all students would be corrected if they were marked absent, according to Garret.
The Topeka Police Department had officers present at the school throughout the day, according to City of Topeka spokeswoman Rosie Nichols. TPD later found the threat to be illegitimate.
Garrett thanked staff and law enforcement for ensuring everyone was safe as the threat was investigated.