LEOMINSTER — Reports of a person brandishing a weapon on the grounds of Sky View Middle School on Wednesday morning were determined to be unfounded.
At 11:50 a.m., the Leominster Police Department received a report that someone was on school grounds with an AR-15-style rifle. After the call was received, the school went into lockdown while police, fire, and emergency services swept school grounds.
“We were able to get in and get out and it went off without a hitch,” Police Chief Aaron Kennedy said.
After determining the threat was unfounded, the lockdown was lifted at 12:30 p.m. and the school day resumed. Kennedy said the false report at Sky View follows the “swatting” hoax seen at other schools across the state this week including Fitchburg High School and Clinton Public Schools on Tuesday.
Regardless of if it is a hoax or not, Kennedy said every situation had to be taken seriously.
“From our vantage point in Leominster, we treat everything as if it’s the real deal,” Kennedy said. “We don’t ever think of it as a lesser threat.”
Kennedy said police, fire and emergency management meet on a weekly basis and work in conjunction with Leominster Public Schools, as they did Wednesday. He said all parties train for scenarios like this so the disruption for students and their ability to learn is minimal. Although he could not speak for other communities, he felt they would share the same belief.
“As soon as you let your guard down, that will be the time where there will be the mistake you can’t take back,” Kennedy said.
When situations like this occur, Kennedy said he understood the worry and panic parents may feel. However, he said that the city’s emergency personnel and the school department were committed to keeping students safe “in school and on the streets.” He said today was a good training exercise that could be reviewed for ways these situations can be handled in the future.
“We want to make sure that we never have the real deal happen in the city,” Kennedy said.
The investigation into the threats is ongoing and Kennedy said he would not comment on the particulars of the case.
As “swatting” threats are made against schools across the state, the State Police “Fusion Center” has played a role in disseminating timely information to local police departments. Kennedy said the threat made against Sky View Middle School were similar to the threats made against Fitchburg High School and Clinton Public Schools on Tuesday.
Additionally, Kennedy added the lessons learned from the situation at Sky View would be shared with other area police departments to ensure they had the information needed to respond should threats be made against schools in their communities.
An investigation into the threats is ongoing, Kennedy said.
“Swatting” refers to the practice of calling in a fake report in order to bring a significant presence of armed first responders to a particular place as report. The phrase has been recognized as a criminal phenomenon by the FBI since at least 2008.