A threat to shoot a Tahlequah High School administrator and 12 students Friday forced a lockdown at the school.

School officials and law enforcement initially said the lockdown was a drill that was moved up and enhanced because of a moderate threat. Later Friday, Superintendent Paul Hurst said the event was not a drill.

Hurst said the “moderate threat” was found by a cleaning crew Wednesday evening. He said no action was taken until Friday because the note indicated the shooting was planned for Friday the 13th.

THS Principal Dr. Nick Migliorino told students during an impromptu school assembly Friday that the note was written on a bathroom wall.

Hurst paraphrased the note by telling reporters it said, “I’m going to bring a gun to school and I’m going to shoot XXX (a specific administrator) and 12 other students on Friday the 13th. This is no joke. God save your souls.”

The note was signed with a pentagram. The superintendent said the note did not name specific students who were targets and he declined to confirm or deny the identity of the administrator.

Hurst was made aware of the situation Wednesday night. The Wednesday edition of the Daily Press featured a story on upgraded safety measures at the high school.

“It’s odd the threat came the same day, but I cannot confirm it’s an offshoot of the story about THS,” said Hurst.

On Thursday, school resource officers and THS administration members tried to identify a suspect by reviewing videotapes from the school and talking to several people.

“We moved the drill up because the threat was more specific than others that have come around,” Hurst said.

He said Migliorino held the assembly because he wanted to talk to the students.

Migliorino told THS students the school was on a “semi lock down.” He said students would be allowed to go to lunch and change classes like any regular school day.

“However, you won’t be able to leave the campus,” he said. “The only exception will be if your parent or someone comes to pick you up.”

Parents of several THS students arrived at the campus Friday morning to retrieve their children while law enforcement and school officials were directing them to produce student IDs, empty their pockets and either walk through a metal detector or have one of the hand-held detectors swept over them to determine whether they were carrying weapons.

A large number of THS students remained in school Friday. Some parents came to the school and opted to leave their children on the campus.

No weapons were found during the searches.

Several parents and local residents called the Daily Press to inquire about the situation and to offer versions of what they heard had happened at the school. One parent called for school officials to take action against those making the threats. She said she told her son, a THS senior, to stay home Friday.

Machelle Macfadden became highly concerned about the circulating rumors of death threats when her 18-year-old son, a senior at THS, called her Thursday to ask for her help.

“My son called me [Thursday night] and he asked me to call the police department to see what was going on, because they heard that there were death threats that they had found,” said Macfadden. “A paper, letter or something they had found in the bathroom.”

Macfadden said she called the police department Thursday night and was told by a dispatcher there had been “a situation” at the high school.

“But they wouldn’t tell me the details,” said Macfadden. “They said there was a situation but the police department was working with the school to try to get it taken care of. I was kind of shocked that they said anything; I was expecting it to be, you know, rumors.”

“I’m not taking that chance, because I’m worried they’re not going to do anything until somebody does get shot ...” said Macfadden. “And I don’t want it to be my son.”

Macfadden believes officials should take the students responsible for the threats out of school.

“Why are they continuing to let them stay in school, let them get away with it? Why are no charges filed against them? I’m just scared that it’s going to be like some of these other schools - there’s been a lot of that going on,” said Macfadden. “I don’t think it’s fair for any other parent up there that it has to be something that severe before [school officials] do anything.”

Macfadden said she was surprised when she heard school officials pulled the THS students into the school auditorium and told them the hustle of the morning was a drill.

“If they are doing just a drill, how come they have the county, the city police?” asked Macfadden.

In the event of school violence and a need to lock down the school, there would be a strong law enforcement presence to assist school officials and conduct an investigation.

“This is just to practice,” Migliorino told students during the assembly. “The climate [around the country] has been a bit tense. There is a lot of tension and it’s effecting the academic atmosphere.”

Migliorino said similar drills will occur during the remainder of the school year and will be unannounced by school personnel.

The THS principal also told students some other changes would take effect Friday. He said no more than one student will be permitted to leave a classroom at one time and all students leaving classrooms must have a hall pass. Students will also be required to produce a student ID when requested by a teacher, SRO or administrator.

“There are too many students in the hallways,” he said.

Another practice aimed at reducing hallway traffic is shutting down vending machines except before and after school and during lunch period.

Migliorino said most students are not creating the problems, but the minority is affecting the majority’s way of life.

Police Chief Steve Farmer said officials identified two sources of entry at Tahlequah High School and everyone entering the facility was routed through metal detectors.

“We were very pleased with the cooperation of everyone involved and feel there is a system in place to maintain a sense of security at our public schools,” Farmer said. “Our primary objective is to keep our schools safe for students, faculty and staff.”

In addition to TPD officers, Cherokee County sheriff’s deputies and investigators, Cherokee Nation marshals, Tahlequah-Cherokee County Emergency Management and Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission personnel participated in the lockdown.

In light of recent nationwide incidents involving school assaults, officials believed it would be prudent to conduct a local exercise. The school district and police department have received “moderate level threats” in the past month that prompted Friday’s event.

“We did something we’ve never done before at THS,” Hurst said. “We ran all students through the metal detectors, checked all book bags, purses and pockets.”

Staff Writer Teddye Snell contributed to this report.


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