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South Whidbey School District reviewing safety policies after threat

A former Langley Middle School student is in police custody after he made online threats about a staff member.

The student, identified only as a male who was last enrolled in November 2011, threatened a staff member on the online social networking site Facebook. The threat prompted a two-day lockout of South Whidbey School District campuses late last week.

District Superintendent Jo Moccia said she was notified by law enforcement about comments the former student made about a staff member on Facebook.

“It was a reiteration of a threat made back in the fall,” Moccia said.

The school district’s five campuses were put on perimeter lockout — less urgent than a lockdown — Thursday and Friday. All doors were locked at the school buildings, except the front main doors closest to the main office.

Locking all the doors was a challenge for the middle school, which has seven separate buildings that students use throughout the day.

“In the middle school, it becomes more difficult because there are more buildings,” Moccia said.

The South Whidbey School District has been reviewing its safety policies and procedures this year. After a few parent notification errors last week, Moccia and administrators will take a closer look at its notification system.

During emergencies, parents are alerted by phone and email. An all-call system dials emergency phone numbers parents and guardians provide at the start of the school year until someone answers.

Some of the calls were garbled, Moccia said, and other attempts to alert some parents failed.

“First thing’s first; we maintain safety,” Moccia said. “Then we want to make sure we notify parents.”

The district has a list of all the failed calls from last week and is reviewing each one. Some are wrong numbers or email addresses, and others are mistakes within the notification system.

“There are some concerns with that system that we’ll be looking at,” Moccia said. “It’s really important to keep people informed, so that they can make choices as well.”

In different school safety emergencies, the procedure changes. Moccia said parents are allowed to take their students out of school after a notice is sent out. In a crisis, however, the location may not be the school, and relocation areas are kept secret to ensure student and staff security.

“Parents are always allowed to come to the school,” Moccia said. “If we’re in an emergency situation, in all likelihood we would relocate the students and have the parents come there.”

“Very few people took their kids out of school,” she added.

Classes resumed normally on Monday.

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