The Bancroft Middle School lockdown that left hundreds of Long Beach students and parents alarmed turned out to be a former visiting student mistaken for an adult with a gun, police said Tuesday.
The false alarm was certainly a dress rehearsal for any such event in the future, not to mention a reminder to check in with the school front office and get a visitor nametag.
Bancroft's principal Kimberly Dalton praised students for their calm and mature composure during the lockdown in a Tuesday morning bulletin, which are done daily:
"One of our key concerns at school is the safety of our students and staff. We have emergency procedures in place for a variety of circumstances, we train the staff on these, and we have practice drills on a regular basis. In addition, we rely on School Safety and the law enforcement for their support. Yesterday we were able to see all of these processes work exactly as they were supposed to in a very expedient fashion.
"Our school is safe, our students and staff are safe, and for that I am very thankful. I am looking forward to another great day at Bancroft."
Two students, both girls, posted on Patch their experience during the period in which they were held in classrooms. Verbatim:
"I Was In That Lockdown ....Everyone Was So Worried ... When Some Like Me Shrugged It Off And Made A Few Jokes On It... They Kept Us From Period 4 To 7th ... I Am Not Sure If They Let People Go To 8th Period Cause I Went Home Early Thoo"
And another: "It's scary to be in lockdown fOr 2 hours. I'm a 7th grader at bms. I was stuck in my 4th period class for the whole rest of the day. First we got the notification of a possible unothorized person on campus with a weapon which frightened all of us very much. Then from our class room window we seen a helicopter circling our school after that police arrived and had dogs searching every area of the school. Thankfully no one got hurt"
Some parents complained that Long Beach Police Department should have informed them of the unfolding situation on campus, but others said they realize police were making judgement calls based on the circumstances, which resulted in finding that a gun was never, in fact, seen.
Police department spokesperson Nancy Pratt said Tuesday that Long Beach Unified School District school safety officers called LBPD at about 11:35 a.m. Monday, reporting a "possible person with a gun at Bancroft Middle School."
Officers arrived at the campus in the Lakewood Village neighborhood quickly and "secured the school," Pratt said.
Long Beach Unified School District spokesman Chris Eftychiou said the lockdown procedure for such an incident was followed as the report was investigated. This means that students remain in their classrooms, the door locked, lights out, and silent.
It was not disclosed whether a student or a teacher or safety officer first reported the sighting, but officers on the scene got a description by witnesses and began combing the campus for such a person, Pratt said.
A suspect with a gun was not found, no weapon was found, and after the entire grounds were searched, as well as Pan Am Park across the street from the school, the lockdown was lifted about 1:30 p.m. the district, and police said, and parents reported on Facebook.
As the police investigation progressed, it was found that the person visiting was a 19-year-old former Bancroft student who was visiting his former teachers. It was not clear if he'd checked in at the front office, as is required on all LBUSD and most other schools.
"Through the follow-up investigation, it was determined that a gun was never actually seen on campus," Pratt wrote in her e-mail response to Patch. "The subject was contacted and interviewed. Detectives determined that the subject had been on school grounds for the purpose of visiting former teachers."
On a Facebook page called Dora Jarr neighborhood watch page, residents were given updates including the fact that 50 parents showed up at Bancroft, on Centralia Avenue, after learning of the lockdown from either Long Beach Council member Gerrie Schipske or news reports.
On Long Beach Police Department's Facebook page, LBPD thanked those involved in Monday's lockdown and follow-up, and an informed exchange occured about 9 a.m. (see the end of the story). It might suggest actions for other school communities to consider establishing with the police department. Following a morning residential burglary-shooting near Lowell Elementary and Rogers Middle schools, a meeting was held to share with residents and parents how the alert system may work, depending on the situation.
Dora Jarr: Question for LBPD - Why was there not any communications, alerts sent out regarding lockdown at Bancroft Middle School. There were no postings on LBPD's website (newsroom). There were no Nixle Alerts sent out. The Reverse 911 system was not put in place for the surounding area. Residents, and parents of the students learned of this lockdown from local news agencies prior to any communication from our city government and none from LBPD. The only form of communication regarding this 'Lockdown' from the city was from our council person. LBPD should have been are first line of communication/ information, not our council person. The residents of Lakewood Village would like a response as to why no notifications or communication with residents was established?
LBPD: Good questions Dora. There are incidents such as this that turn out to be false info and it takes some time to gather all of the facts. The school district was also involved and was in the process of putting something out to the parents, which we didn't want to duplicate. There is a balance of putting out the information too soon or too late and we strive to find that balance. After each incident we take the time to evaluate what we did right and what we could improve upon. Thank you for your thoughts. We will include them in our discussions and try to do better next time.
Dora Jarr: What facts were needed? LBPD had enough reason/fact to put in place a lockdown at Bancroft. From that point 11:30 am residents should have been notified about this possible armed suspect in their neighborhood. My point and or concern is the continued lack of communication between residents and LBPD. After elimination of LBPD's Neighborhood Watch Program and the disbanding of the East Police Advisory Committee (EPAC) there is virtually no communication between organized residential groups and LBPD. We can't use budget cuts as an excuse to not communicate critical issues that affect residents. What if the report of an armed gunman was true and he was roaming the neighborhood? I'd rather have information that a possible armed gunman might be in the neighborhood than no information at all. Again, its back to the lack of communication from LBPD. The first reports all came from students inside the schood texting and local news agencies. I've always heard you take to much time to think, not react 'your dead'. I am very proud to live in LB and we have an excellent police force. I just think the lines of communication between residents and our police force are broken. We need each other, and we can help each other if communication line is there.
Jon Schultz: Thank you LBPD for keeping our kids safe. You were at the school within 3 minutes. If you ever have the choice in the future of saving our kids, or emailing/contacting "Community Groups", please take care of the kids. I am also a local, and was notified by my Councilperson and by local media. I do not expect a Reverse 911 call every time there "might be a suspect in the area". You have helped my family many times with several problems on our corner. I will not second guess you, nor tell you how to do your job after the fact - especially when every choice you made wound up being the correct call, such as in this case... Keep up the good work, and keep safe!