MISSOULA – A meeting has been scheduled for later this week to discuss the lockdown at Sentinel High School.
Students were held in their classrooms for several hours on Monday after a magazine of handgun ammunition was found in a school entryway.
School and district administrators will be able to provide updates on the investigation, answer questions about school safety, and listen to concerns at the meeting.
Classes returned to normal on Tuesday, but there was an increased police presence on campus as authorities continued their investigation.
A news release sent out by Missoula County Public Schools on Tuesday evening says the investigation has not led to the owner of the magazine and officials have not uncovered any weapons that would further threaten the safety of the Sentinel campus.
Students found the magazine in the lobby after they had heard a metallic sounding object hit the ground and immediately reported it to school staff.
Principal Ted Fuller says the only descriptors they received from the eye witness reports were a dark teal backpack and a gray lunch box that were seen in the area when the magazine fell to the ground.
During the lockdown, officials did an initial search of going room to room searching every backpack and lunch box that matched the description.
But based on the results, officials dismissed school early, so they could do a more thorough search of the campus.
The parent forum will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday in the cafeteria at Sentinel High School.
The following letter was sent to parents and guardians of Sentinel High School students on Tuesday:
Our school was calm and productive today. We saw an 86% attendance rate at the school today. I want to continue to recognize our students and staff for their focus on student achievement and for supporting each other as we recover from the stress of yesterday’s events.
I know that you have many detailed questions, which we were unable to answer directly on Monday. I would like to provide some updates about our investigation and safety procedures at the school in this email.
I would also like to invite you to attend a parent forum at the school at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 17, 2019 in our cafeteria. At this forum, I will be able to provide updates on our investigation, answer your questions about Sentinel safety and listen to your concerns.
Lockdown and Investigation
First, I want to clarify to you, as I did with the news media at the end of the day on Monday, a student reported the loaded magazine to the main office on Monday morning. There was a construction worker in the area who also witnessed the magazine fall to the ground. The eye witness reports simply indicated that the magazine fell to the ground making a sound that alerted them. The witnesses did not see where the magazine fell from, or a clear description of a person who may have been in control of the magazine before it fell to the ground.
Please understand that in the early moments around a crisis and an investigation, information is rapidly evolving, we focus on sharing the most important information about your student’s immediate safety. You may find that details are able to be confirmed later, as I am doing in this email.
The only descriptors we received from the eye witness reports were a dark teal backpack and a grey lunch box that were seen in the area when the magazine fell to the ground.
During the lockdown, our initial search involved going from room to room searching every backpack and lunch box that matched the description.
Based on the results of that search, we determined that the best course of action was to dismiss school and conduct a more thorough search of the entire campus, including classrooms, lockers, bathrooms, and trash cans to determine if there was a weapon anywhere on campus.
Our dismissal procedures were tightly coordinated with the Missoula Police Department to protect and supervise students within the building and as they exited our campus.
The Missoula Police Department encourages anyone with firearms to always keep them secure and periodically verify all their weapons are accounted for. This incident is a good reminder to families to do so, and if they realized any firearms are missing, they should contact their appropriate law enforcement agency.
Our investigation continued today and has not lead to the owner of the magazine. We have not uncovered any weapons or information that would further threaten the safety of the Sentinel campus.
Sentinel Safety and Security
I know that many of you have a multitude of questions and seek detailed information about our safety procedures so that you can assess your child’s safety while on our campus. I will address as much as I can at our parent forum on Thursday night. If I leave some details about our procedures more vague, please understand that this decision is guided by our district safety team and the Missoula Police Department. We know that sharing every detail about our procedures can serve to weaken our systems – giving an opportunity to those that may act violently to learn more about our safety measures.
We will share information via email on Thursday night after the parent forum for those families that are unable to attend in person.
I can assure you that myself, our administrative team, our teachers, along with our Superintendent and district staff, took yesterday’s events incredibly seriously and we acted accordingly. We know that you rely on us to act confidently and competently in our duties. Our Sentinel team is committed to your student’s safety. I am proud of our team and the job we did to maintain safety at our school on Monday. Perfection is a goal to strive towards and I commit to you that the questions from our students, staff, and parents will all be used to further refine safety procedures on the Sentinel campus.
Sentinel High School