Students at Belmont secondary were held in their classrooms, their school surrounded by police cars, as the threat of a fight involving a knife and a gun was dealt with this morning.
Principal Ray Miller confirmed that the school was placed in a lockout situation – not a lockdown – after comments made on social media indicated that a fight was brewing involving current students and individuals not attending the school.
“We were worried about releasing the kids into the community (for lunch) knowing that this threat may be out there,” Miller said.
The information about a potential fight brewing was relayed to school administrators around 11 a.m. by a Belmont student and a parent who saw postings about it on social media, he said. The decision to implement a lockout came after 10 minutes of making phone calls and checking information as a way to determine the potential risk to students.
West Shore RCMP received a tip about the possible scenario around the same time and worked with the Sooke School District on implementing a lockout of both Belmont and Pacific secondary in Colwood.
The RCMP eventually determined the fight was to have involved three males, two of whom are students in the district. No weapons were found and no fight occurred, but police are continuing their investigation. As of late Tuesday, no charges had been laid.
With police having secured the perimeter of Belmont and assessed the potential for danger, the school was given the green light around 1 p.m. to allow students to leave the building for a lunch break.
Miller clarified the difference between a lockdown and a lockout: the former means students can not leave their classrooms under any circumstances because someone who may do harm is inside the school. The latter is when the school is locked to the outside to prevent anyone from coming in.
“The irony here is that we practice these sorts of drills, and (Wednesday) was going to be our first semester lockdown drill rehearsal,” he said.
The plan was to debrief with staff about the school’s reaction to Tuesday’s situation and use the experience gained to fine tune the protocol for such scenarios.
“Whenever we have events like this, it’s never perfect, it’s very fluid and we have to make decisions on our feet,” Miller said. “We want to make sure we overreact in situations like this regarding safety. I just think that parents in the community need to know we take all these threats to the community seriously.”