LONG BEACH — Reports of an armed man on the campus of Hubert H. Bancroft Middle School turned out to be possibly a false alarm Monday.
But the response of parents — roughly 400 flooded the campus, frantic and worried — and police reflected the tense atmosphere on school campuses in the wake of a mass shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school Dec. 14.PHOTOS
Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell was among the police department brass who went to the scene, saying the response by both the department and parents was clearly affected by the East Coast tragedy.
"Our response was swift and aggressive," the chief said. "I think it's good, in a way, for Long Beach to see that we take any kind of threat like this very seriously and we are ready to respond at a moment's notice."
Long Beach Police Department officers locked down the campus at about 11:30 a.m. after a student said he saw a man on the campus with a gun. An adult also reported seeing the man, but no weapon, police said.
No suspect or gun was found, and the campus was deemed safe at about 1 p.m. The school is located at 5301 Centralia Ave., northeast of Long Beach Airport near the Lakewood border.
More than 50 LBPD officers responded, including K-9 units. A Sheriff's Department helicopter also swept over the area, assisting with the search, said Sgt. Aaron Eaton, an LBPD spokesman.
The incident was still under investigation, Eaton said.
Hundreds of parents formed a line in front of Bancroft as they waited for the children to be released. As children were guided from their classrooms, many parents lined up in front of a fence eager to catch a glimpse of their child.
Debbie Bath said she was in tears as she rushed to the school after receiving a text message from her seventh-grade daughter.
"I tried not to panic, but I was so worried, especially after everything that has been going on in the news," she said. "I think my daughter just needs a hug from her mom right now. And I need a hug from her."
Nerves across the country were frayed after a gunman, identified by police as Adam Lanza, 20, killed 20 first-graders and six adults in a Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Ashley Bates, a seventh-grader at Bancroft, said she was in her third period class when the principal spoke over the intercom and told students to stay in their classrooms. Bates said most of her classmates sat quietly and waited.
"About every 20 minutes they would tell us to stay calm and just stay in our classroom," Bates said. "I was worried. I didn't know what was going on."
Mom Karen Bates said she also heard the news through a text message and rushed to the school. Following the recent shooting, Bates said she now talks to her children frequently about school safety.
"I just tell them that if something happens in their school they need to stay quiet and find a safe place to hide," Bates said. "Better safe than sorry these days."
Many parents praised the quick response from law enforcement and school administrators. Some, however, were upset that they weren't notified earlier, and many said they found out about the situation through calls and text messages from their children.
LBUSD spokesman Chris Eftychiou said parents were notified about an hour into the situation through email from the principal and via the Bancroft website.
Eftychiou said officials were working to determine the situation before they contacted parents.
"It's a fluid situation and a lot of times lockdowns end as quickly as they begin," he said. "It's good if you can tell parents right of the bat, but we had to see what was going on here first before we immediately called parents.
"As it started to become clear that the lockdown was going to be longer, we made the decision to contact parents. We'll continue to work on how we communicate with parents to get the information to them as quickly as possible."
Eftychiou said the response from law enforcement and the school district was an example of the excellent safety measures in place to protect children in school.
"We implement our safety procedures as a precaution as we did here, and we believe those safety procedures worked well," he said. "We're glad everything turned out OK."