Lodi Unified School District superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer said the November lockdown at Tokay High School was a difficult situation and provided her staff with a unique learning experience on how future situations might be handled.
“We cannot predict when something might happen and something can happen at any time,” she said. “It is good to have this kind of learning experience during a time that is not convenient for folks.”
Nichols-Washer presented an overview of how staff handled the Nov. 26 incident to the LUSD Board of Education at its Tuesday night meeting.
On Nov. 26, a Tokay student found graffiti on a boys’ bathroom wall threatening violence against the campus. The student informed school staff of the vandalism and, at about 10:30 a.m., the campus was placed on lockdown.
Tokay principal Eric Sandstrom told the board that the lockdown was announced just as a teaching period had come to an end. He said getting everyone indoors and where they needed to be went seamlessly.
“Our entire school responded very well,” he said. “Our first lunch had just started, but the campus was cleared and students were back in classrooms under three minutes which, for a campus our size, is very good.”
However, Sandstrom said what staff might need to address is student confusion, as many were entering classrooms they weren’t familiar with because they were ushered into the closest indoor area for safety reasons.
Another aspect of the lockdown that staff might want to address is training substitute teachers for such a situation, he said.
Each classroom is equipped with an emergency bucket filled with first aid supplies and a toilet seat in the event students need to relieve themselves. Sandstrom said only six were used during the lockdown.
The school performs two lockdown drills a year, he said, the last one occurring in September. One is conducted while students are in class, and the other is conducted during a passing period when students are in between classes.
Sandstrom added that what also worked was that students reported the threat to staff.
Tokay student Aatiya Edwards, serving as student representative for the meeting, said she wanted to report the graffiti as soon as a picture of the threat was shown to her. However, she said another student had already reported the graffiti.
She said she felt immediately safe when the lockdown was called.
“For the almost two hours I was in the class, safe and sound,” she said. “I felt immediately safe. I wasn’t super freaked out. The teacher I was with was super calm about it, and I think (the incident) was handled very well.”
The lockdown was lifted shortly after noon that day, and parents were given permission to take their students home if they chose.
Lodi Police Department officers arrested a student at about 8 p.m. that night.
“I think we’d be negligent if we didn’t diligently plan for this type of emergency,” board member Gary Knackstedt said. “As it turned out, this real world experience is a real opportunity to build on it.”
Nichols-Washer said the incident will be discussed with the district’s safety committee, and additional training will be considered for substitutes and new teachers in the coming months.