ECTOR COUNTY, Texas (KMID/KPEJ)- Yesterday, Ector County ISD, along with multiple law enforcement agencies, were on high alert after someone left a voicemail Monday night for the Federal Bureau of Investigation threatening to shoot elementary students if they didn’t get help. That voicemail prompted the district to place all elementary school campus in a “secure” status.
A person of interest was found, and investigators said they didn’t think the treat was credible; that news came several hours after parents were alerted about a wide-spread conditions on multiple campuses.
Now, some parents have said they are frustrated with ECISD’s “lack of communication”. Kaitlyn Mills said she wants to know why she couldn’t get a response from the district; she said she wants to know why parents weren’t notified about a potential threat sooner.
“It was about five to seven hours when they let the parents know what had transpired and it was immediate panic and anger. Being kept in the dark is humiliating, and I don’t think I’m alone as far as the other parents in ECISD,” Mills said.
ECISD’s Chief Communications Officer, Mike Adkins, said yesterday in a release that the district followed protocol that is in place to ensure student and staff safety.
“We were unable to release information for the reason behind the secure, as we did not want it to be widely reported and potentially tip off a suspect,” the release read.
While Mills said she understands that the district followed protocol, she said she simply wants to help improve on the policies in place to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again.
“If we could work together with ECISD, I think the parents have a lot of solutions or viable options…we could have some sort of system to alert parents, ‘There is a threat, but everyone is safe for the time being, continue about your day, we’ll keep you posted’, or potentially, since they had the information overnight, maybe a text could have been sent out to parents saying, ‘Hey guys, school’s optional tomorrow’ and not give any further details.
Mills said it’s all about keeping kids safe, but also helping ease parent’s minds.
Following our initial report, Scott Muri, ECISD Superintendent, sent an email to all parents regarding these concern. You can read his full statement below:
Good evening, elementary school parents,
I know this message is coming to you late, but I want to take just a couple of minutes to update you on the situation involving the elementary school threat yesterday. Our team spent quite a bit of time today reviewing the steps we took and how we could have better served you as parents.
Yesterday, at approximately 8:45 a.m., ECISD police were notified of a threat targeting elementary schools that was phoned into the FBI sometime overnight. Our officers immediately began working with other local law enforcement agencies, primarily the FBI and Department of Public Safety, to locate the person who made the call. The first step in the response was to put all elementary schools into a Secure, ensuring all students and staff were inside and visitors were restricted. ECISD officers were placed either on each campus or in patrol around each school. Other agencies helped with those school patrols, too.
The Secure was to go into effect around 9:30 but we now know that was not clearly communicated to our principals and some schools did not fully implement that protocol. It was released an hour later when a person of interest was found and interviewed. At that time law enforcement determined the person named in the original message to the FBI was not the person responsible for making the call, and felt the threat was not credible and the situation was safe enough to release the Secure. They began to look for other leads to continue the investigation.
While we were limited in the amount of information we could release at the time, we realize not updating you at that point was a mistake and I want to apologize for that. That lack of information created confusion and worry for you. We will make changes to the way we handle and report information to you in Secure situations, which we typically considered precautionary responses, not emergencies. We understand yesterday’s circumstances were very different from most that we face, and we did not respond well enough for you.
I do not want the communication surrounding this event to undermine your confidence in ECISD’s safety procedures or emergency response. ECISD and local law enforcement have created procedures to work together in situations like this, and those plans have proven over time to be effective in keeping our schools and our community safe.
Please reach out to us if you have any questions or to discuss your concerns. Thank you for allowing us the privilege of serving you and your children.