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False report leads to school lockdowns

by CAROLINE LOBSINGEREMILY BONSANT
Staff Writer | February 23, 2023 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — A number of schools in the region, including those in Bonner, Kootenai and Boundary counties, received anonymous phone calls alleging active shootings at the buildings.

All of the reports are determined to be false.

Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler said Bonner County 911 was among those receiving the hoax phone calls. Area law enforcement quickly determined there was no active shooter or threat to students and staff at local school districts.

"Out of abundance of caution, the Bonner County Sheriff’s Office will be conducting extra patrols at our schools to help reduce parent, staff, and student concerns," Wheeler said in a press release posted to social media.

Idaho State Police announced that several jurisdictions across Idaho also received a 911 call reporting a threat to schools. Among them were Lake City High School in Coeur d'Alene and Columbia High School in Nampa.

“The information we have now suggests the threat came from outside our area, and there wasn’t ever a threat to anyone at LCHS,” according to a Coeur d’Alene Police Department news release.

Police received a report of a possible active shooter at the school around 9:30 a.m. It was one of several similar reports involving other Idaho schools Wednesday.

A school resource officer was on scene at the time of the report and LCHS was immediately locked down.

“Because the safety of our kids is paramount, all available officers from the police department, along with surrounding agencies immediately began responding to the school,” the press release said.

Within two minutes, officers arrived with more on the way.

Medical personnel from the Coeur d’Alene Fire Department also responded.

After searching the school, police determined it was a false report and began clearing the scene about 10 a.m.

Several officers remained on site as the school, which has about 1,600 students, resumed classes.

Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Debbie Critchfield said several schools were impacted Wednesday by threats of violence, “and that the threats do not appear to be valid.”

State Department of Education staff have been in touch with districts and will continue to stay apprised of the situation, she said.

"I’m thankful for the quick action from school administrators and law enforcement to ensure the safety of students in the affected schools," she said.

In Bonners Ferry, the Boundary County Middle School received an anonymous phone call, warning of a school shooting about to happen, Andrew O’Neal, Boundary County public information officer, said in a wrote in a press release. The middle school reported the call to law enforcement and locked down the school, while the Boundary County School District implemented precautionary measures at other county schools.

Boundary County law enforcement agencies responded, searched the schools and reviewed security camera footage. All schools were cleared, and school activities returned to normal, he said.

State Department of Education staff have been in touch with districts and will stay apprised of the situation, Critchfield said.

"I’m thankful for the quick action from school administrators and law enforcement to ensure the safety of students in the affected schools," she said.

The Ontario School District in Oregon reported a similar situation Tuesday.

“An anonymous report was made to dispatch concerning a potential threat to student safety on the OHS campus,” a press release said. "It appears as if this same threat was made to multiple organizations throughout the state. In a coordinated effort with the Ontario Police Department and district personnel, an assessment and search revealed no present or impending threat to students. All students are safe and the school day was able to proceed as normal.”

Staff writer Bill Buley contributed to this story.