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Lockdown at a Santa Maria high school kept students safe, but timing left parents worried

Posted at 11:27 PM, Nov 16, 2018

All the students who were still at Pioneer Valley High School in Santa Maria when a lockdown was put in place five minutes before the final bell on Friday afternoon were safe.

School administration learned there may have been a student on campus with a firearm.

“We felt like we were acting on a rumor but we wanted to be completely sure we kept the kids safe,” said principal Shanda Herrera.

Parents who arrived to the school to pick up their child waited for an explanation for what was happening. Those who gathered on the lawn near the bus turnout were anxious, awaiting to hear the situation.

“We were angry because no one was letting us know what was happening,” said grandparent Carrie Amick. “Our children were not out here. We have the right, these are our children. The school should have called us and let us know what was going on.”

Santa Maria Police officers securing the perimeter are not allowed to relay information directly to parents. That job comes from both the commander on scene and the school. Student safety was top priority.

“We have lots of procedures in place,” Herrera said. “We practice all throughout the year to make sure we account for their kids. And we’re not going to release them unless we know that they are going to be safe. Today, I know it took the 50 minutes, but we knew they would be all right when they went out the door.”

The lockdown was lifted before 4 p.m.

Herrera said the school was going to release a statement explaining what happened.

Police located and detained the student in question. After an investigation, the student — who was in possession of a BB gun, but not on campus at the time — will not face any criminal penalty.

“We want to thank the school staff and administration for their assistance during the response to the campus today. We are most grateful for the cooperation of the parents and guardians of the students on the PVHS campus. Your cooperation allowed us to work faster to resolve the concerns we all had,” stated Santa Maria Police in a press release.

This is the second incident this week. On Tuesday, an Orcutt man was placed on a mental health hold after making threatening social media posts against schools. Last week, a shooting was reported during overnight hours at a Santa Barbara elementary school.

Santa Maria Police will be adding text to 911 services in the next few months. The department also posts updates on Twitter.