A St. Louis TV station “tested” school security today at five area school districts, causing a lockdown at Kirkwood High school.
Kirkwood High is a sprawling suburban school on a 47 acre campus with eight buildings and over 1600 students.
Kinda makes you sick, doesn’t it? Sure, we want to know our kids are safe. But is there really a need for local media to scare the crap out the students and staff at one of our schools?
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports:
The visit was one of five made by the television station to schools in the region aimed at exposing lapses in school security.
After hours of social media uproar, KSDK aired the news report at 10 p.m.
During the segment, the station showed how a staff member was unable to enter four schools unimpeded, but was able to walk right into Kirkwood High School, which had no buzzers at the door and whose entrance was not locked. The news report also questioned why the Kirkwood lockdown took place an hour after the reporter left the school building.
Even before the segment aired, KSDK used its 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. broadcasts to issue a statement standing by its reporting.
The undercover reporter walked into Kirkwood High at 11:50 am and asked a school secretary to see the School Resource Officer. The school is saying that the SRO was unavailable at that time, so the man gave his name and cell phone number. He did NOT identify himself as a reporter. He then asked for directions to the bathroom and the secretary watched him go down a different hall.
Kirkwood released a statement to it’s parents, here’s a quote:
The secretary directed him to the restroom, but the man walked down the hall and turned into a different hallway. At that point, the secretary became concerned the request to use the bathroom was a ruse to access the building and she immediately called our SRO. The SRO attempted to call the man to confirm that he had left the campus, but didn’t receive an answer. The man’s voicemail stated that he was a Ch. 5 reporter.
At that point, Ginger Cayce was notified called the news desk at Ch. 5 (multiple times) to confirm it was a reporter. The news desk wouldn’t confirm or deny that it was a Ch. 5 reporter. Ms. Cayce told the news desk that we would have to go into lockdown if we couldn’t get this confirmed. When it couldn’t be confirmed, we had to go into lockdown.
The school was in lockdown mode for 40 terrifying minutes. We’re getting reports of frightened parents and students texting back and forth during this time, saying that students were held in their classrooms with the doors locked, the lights off and their backs up against the wall.
All because a TV station wanted a juicy story.
Social media around here is in an uproar. Parents are mad, schools are mad. Maybe we should do a little “Show Me 5” of our own…and change the station.
For my out of town readers, a little history might be interesting. Last month, on Dec. 17, the same campus went into lockdown because a janitor reported the sound of gunshots at 5:30 in the morning. It turns out they heard the sound of breaking light bulbs, but they couldn’t confirm that until after police searched all eight buildings. School buses were diverted to a nearby grocery store parking lot and the school was able to open an hour late.
Kirkwood is also no stranger to insane gunmen, so please excuse them if they get a little slap happy with the lockdowns. In 2008 the community lost six people in a shooting at city hall. The victims included the mayor, two council members, the public works director and two police officers. A local reporter was also wounded. The gunman (who was shot and killed by the police) was well known to city hall, someone with 150 tickets and a lawsuit with the city. He came to a lot of meetings to argue with the council.
That shooting freaked out all the local governments around St. Louis. I know, because back then I was working as a stringer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, covering city hall and school board meetings in St. Louis County. By 2009 I was working as a freelance reporter for Patch.com and I covered a Kirkwood school board meeting. I stood up to take a photo during one of these meetings and I was promptly ushered into the hall by an undercover Kirkwood cop who thought I might be a threat to the board members.
I think they take school security fairly seriously.
There are people questioning why Kirkwood’s high school doesn’t have locked doors, but like I said, it’s a big campus. Eight buildings. High schoolers have a lot more freedom to come and go than elementary students. I don’t know the campus that well, but I know most of the schools in St. Louis were built well before we were worried about gun violence and crazy people. Heck, some schools don’t even have their offices near the front doors anymore because expansions have changed the floor plans.
Maybe Kirkwood could have done something better. But do we really want to treat all school visitors like they are an enemy? How do you feel when you walk into your kid’s school and are given the 5th degree by the office? Maybe KSDK could have done something a little better too.