ARLEE – It’s one thing to practice school lockdowns, and another to have to engage in the real deal.
Arlee Schools will use Monday morning’s unexpected precautionary lockdown – triggered by a report of a suicidal male in the vicinity of the schools, but not on school property – to fine-tune procedures, Superintendent George Linthicum said.
Schools here were locked down briefly after Lake County Dispatch received a report at 10:06 a.m. of a male at a private residence threatening suicide with a firearm.
“We chose to contact the schools and have them go into lockdown just for safety precautions,” Lake County Sheriff Jay Doyle said. The sheriff indicated the primary concern was the outside possibility a suicidal person might leave the residence with the firearm and for some reason head in the direction of the schools.
The suicidal male “didn’t make any threats to the schools, only to himself,” Doyle said, “but we just felt it was right to take the precaution.”
Linthicum said the lockdown lasted as few as five to six minutes, and 10 minutes “at the most.”
“I wasn’t timing it, we were busy making sure all the procedures were being followed,” Linthicum said.
Teachers locked classroom doors, pulled curtains and shades so intruders could not see into the rooms, and moved children to the farthest wall from the door and had them sit on the floor.
Students practice lockdown procedures the same as they do fire drills, Linthicum said.
Teachers and staff are notified of a lockdown either over the public address system or in person, according to the superintendent.
“Overall it went well,” Linthicum said. “We had some teachers who did not clearly hear the first announcement because their classes were practicing for a Christmas program. Our building principals will visit with the staff and find out what went right and what we can do to improve, and we’ll build a better plan.”
The school used a “phone tree” later to notify parents that the schools had been briefly locked down. The message said the incident triggering the lockdown involved a “person with a gun,” but that the incident did not occur on school property.
Doyle said the man threatening suicide was successfully taken into protective custody. Lake County authorities later identified him in a news release as Peter Woken, 37. It said Woken was taken into custody at a private residence on McMurtrie Street approximately 20 minutes after the call came in to Lake County Dispatch, and transported to the Lake County Detention Center.
McMurtrie Street is approximately three blocks from the schools.
Reporter Vince Devlin can be reached at 1-800-366-7186 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.