CRESTVIEW — Martha Barton, a response intervention specialist in Northwood Elementary's school’s guidance department and reading resource teacher, said the recent Connecticut school shooting was on many minds Monday morning.
“When the kids get out of their cars, I’m right out there in front,” Barton said. “It was normal. I was watching to see if anything looked different.
“One parent brought her kids who normally doesn’t, but yesterday she said it was because they didn’t want to come to school. But everything went real well and the kids are good this morning (Tuesday), too.”
Barton said the students’ and school administration’s response to false reports of a gun-toting Northwood student was understandable.
“It was the moment. It was the day,” she said. “It was natural thing for kids to be thinking about. We all were.”
A Northwood Elementary School student reportedly was suspended following the incident Monday afternoon in which the school was locked down. The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office reported receiving a call of “a possible child with a gun” at 1:44 p.m. Monday.
Several sheriff’s units responded to the call as Principal Jacqueline Craig ordered the school locked down. Deputies also advised adjacent Richbourg E.S.E. School and the Emerald Coast Career Institute/Best Chance program to lock down as well, according to a transcript of the sheriff’s office response.
The Crestview Police Department, Okaloosa County EMS and the Crestview Fire Department were also dispatched to the school complex.
By 1:51 p.m., deputies downgraded the incident when it was determined the boy had a Sharpie pen inside of his watchman’s cap that a girl in his class claimed was a gun. She told their teacher the boy said he had a gun in his hoodie, the transcript stated.
Officers searched the boy’s book bag, desk and a nearby bathroom and no weapons were found. After detaining the boy, he “was interviewed and he denied making those statements (that he had a gun) to the girl,” the transcript stated.
“He stated that she would lie because she does not like him,” the transcript said. “He stated the only thing that he had in his hoodie was a beanie and a pen.”
The boy’s father arrived at the school and assured deputies the student “does not have access to any guns.”
After meeting with Craig, one of the students was suspended for four days “due to the disturbance caused by the incident,” the transcript stated. It is unclear from reports which student was suspended, and Craig said due to confidentiality laws, she was unable “to talk about discipline issues concerning students.”
“We have procedures we follow for suspension, and we take into account multiple factors before we take disciplinary action,” Craig said. “I praise my faculty and staff for following our crisis plan. We also appreciate the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office and the Crestview Police Department for responding quickly and efficiently.”
The school was in lockdown for 30 minutes and then resumed normal operations.
“It was really much ado about nothing, but everyone is a little bit on edge,” sheriff’s spokeswoman Michele Nicholson said afterward.
Several false reports that Riverside Elementary School and Shoal River Middle School had also been locked down Monday were also received by the News Bulletin.