Alarm malfunction leads to school lockdown

Scarsdale Middle School went into lockdown Tuesday afternoon.

On April 2 at 2:07 p.m., Scarsdale police received a call of an automated lockdown alarm from the Scarsdale Middle School.

Capt. Edward Murphy told The Inquirer the police department doesn’t normally release exactly how many officers responded for operational reasons, but he did confirm more than 10 were at the school.

The alarm reportedly went off at 1:55 p.m. At 2:56 p.m., the school district released its first email and Facebook post, stating the middle school experienced an automated lockdown alarm.

“Faculty, staff and students responded by engaging the lockdown protocol, and Scarsdale Police arrived on site,” the message explained.

It went on to state the district believes the alarm went off as a result of a malfunction, but responders swept through the schools to make sure there wasn’t any real danger. Robocalls with similar information went to parents as well.

A follow-up email sent just after 5 p.m. confirmed a lockdown system that is currently in the testing phase was inadvertently activated. That led to a lockdown announcement at the middle school without automatic notifications to the police or district administration. Building administration called the police department.

Assistant Superintendent Stuart Mattey told The Inquirer the lockdown was inadvertently triggered from a phone in another building.

“The system is still being built,” he said. “It was a total fluke that happened. We’re working with the vendors to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

Since the time the lockdown began, it took nearly an hour for parents to be notified by the district a lockdown was in place.

Superintendent Thomas Hagerman explained the delay by email: “Due to these unusual circumstances, communication was delayed until such a time as we had correct and complete information.”

Mattey said the district is discussing how long administrators would take to notify parents of a lockdown, though he said every situation is different and the district looks to gather as much accurate information as possible. From there, they debrief and talk about what could have been improved upon.

Though police swept the building after the alarm went off and determined there wasn’t a threat at the school, they stayed on scene until nearly 4:30 p.m. to help the district with traffic control.

Some parents told The Inquirer, or posted on social media, that their children reported inconsistencies in how teachers managed their classrooms during the lockdown.

Franklin Road resident Roger Neustadt spoke on behalf of the Scarsdale Coalition for Safer Schools and said he heard firsthand accounts by students inside the school. He heard some teachers barricaded the doors and others didn’t and some teachers confiscated cellphones and others did not.

“Whatever [the protocol] is, it must be followed and teachers should not be making it up as they go,” Neustadt wrote in an email to Mattey. “Adherence to well thought out policies is what will save lives in the event of an actual incident.”

In response to the inconsistencies claim, Mattey said teachers have had basic emergency response training, but there are variables that may lead to a different way to handle a particular situation.

Neustadt told The Inquirer he heard one student was in the middle school’s fitness room and didn’t know a lockdown was taking place.

Several parents posted on social media they were frustrated by the delay in communication with the first communication from the district received an hour after the lockdown occurred.

“The problem is, word is going to get out anyway. We don’t understand why the district wouldn’t want to get ahead of any rumors,” Neustadt said, noting that parents hear about a lockdown and get justifiably nervous.

“I don’t think anything could’ve been done about a technical malfunction, but what we’ve learned is there’s no consistency among classrooms,” he said.

Mattey said each event brings suggestions and results in tweaks to what’s already in place.

“Nothing’s ever perfect because every situation is different,” he said.

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