No explosives or suspicious devices were found inside Oak Park High School in Kansas City, North, after more than a thousand students were evacuated Monday morning to investigate threats a student had phoned to police.
Authorities spoke to several people of interest, but no arrests had been made Monday evening in their investigation into “several threats” a student made about Oak Park High School in the Northland.
Kansas City police and the Clay County sheriff’s office received threats about the school, at 825 N.E. 79th Terrace, Kansas City, North, beginning after 9 a.m. Monday.
By 10:22 a.m., authorities reported that everyone was safe, but they began evacuating the building — 1,472 students and 130 staff members. They bused the students to Staley High School at 2800 N.E. Shoal Creek Parkway, Kansas City, North, where the North Kansas City School District arranged for students to reunite with parents.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
Kansas City Police Department bomb and arson investigators methodically searched each room and beneath parked vehicles.
“There were multiple threats made, but I can’t comment on how specific they were,” said Jon Bazzano, a spokesman for the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.
Four to five students were detained and interviewed by police.
“On situations like these, we’re able to track down pretty quickly where the threat came from,” Bazzano said.
“In this case it’s taken us a while, so that’s why we’re going to take every precaution we can until we narrow down who our suspect is,” Bazzano added.
Anyone with information should call the Clay County Sheriff’s Office at 816-407-3700 of the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS (8477).
Oak Park will be reopened to students at 7 a.m. Tuesday. An additional school resource deputy will be at the school as a precaution, district officials said.
Buses started lining up on North Troost Avenue about 10:45 a.m. Monday as police prepared to evacuate the students from the high school. Students — hands on their heads — were walked single file to the buses as they evacuated.
“We want everyone in the same position. And it’s just safer for all of the other students,” Bazzano said of having the students put their hands behind their heads.
Police tackled a student who bolted from the school during the evacuation, trying to run away, and he was taken into custody, Bazzano said. The student injured his arm in the process, Bazzano said. The student’s escape attempt was not related to the threats.
Oak Park High School freshman Whitney Hon said teachers initially locked their doors and continued teaching when the school first went into lockdown. Then staff escalated the lockdown protocol.
“They totally locked it down and moved us into the corner away from the windows and door,” said Whitney, 14.
The students remained there for at least an hour before evacuation procedures to Staley High began, she said.
Other students who left Staley High with their parents described several hours in which rumors flew between students about what the threats entailed. Accounts of students with a particular first name being questioned and reports that a bullied student threatened to commit gun violence circulated.
Whitney and her brother, Cole, 16, said neither school officials nor their teachers told them what the threats were.
The threat was made as students returned from spring break and began MAPP testing, but police said the threat was not related to the standardized testing.
Sherree Cecil said her daughter sent a text at 9:21 a.m. saying the school was on full lockdown and that she could hear sirens.
Cecil rushed to the school after she called the school and didn’t get an answer.
“A lot of things run through your mind, and none of them are good,” Cecil said.
As a cold rain fell, parents gathered outside the school waiting for answers. Mike Terrell said he heard the sirens and drove over to the school.
Christina Self said her daughter sent her a text saying the school was on lockdown. Racing through her mind as she read the text: “Fear and trying to decide how to get the kids out.”
“I was headed home from work and drove by and saw all of the cop cars,” Self said.
Some parents added that they heard the threat possibly involved explosives. Those details, however, could not be confirmed with police.
The North Kansas City School District earlier sent a letter to parents that said: “Oak Park High School is currently in lockdown as we investigate an anonymous threat.
“Law enforcement is on-site assisting in the investigation and working to keep everyone safe. We don’t have a lot of detail at this time but we will keep you updated as we learn more. We know this is a stressful time and appreciate your cooperation and patience.”
Police and sheriff’s vehicles filled the parking lot in front of the school. The streets surrounding the school were blocked to traffic.
Makayla Pacheco, a student, said she arrived at the school to meet with counselors to discuss her graduation, but she was not allowed inside. Several of her classmates sent her text messages saying the school was locked down.
As parents headed to Staley High to pick up their teens, two lanes of traffic crawled toward the school.
Bazzano said authorities and school officials participated in an active shooter training last week at Staley High School.