B-UHS, FETC lockdown boost concerns over school safety

BUCKHANNON — The morning of Thursday September 8 frightened and will surely be remembered by students, parents and other community and school members.  Buckhannon- Upshur High School (B-UHS) and the Fred E. Eberle Technical Center (FETC) were both placed under a precautionary lockdown after a social media post involving a threat of gun violence circulated and was reported to officials.

Following the receipt of the threat the Upshur County Board of Education, Upshur County Sheriff’s Office, Buckhannon Police Department and the Upshur County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM) acted immediately. A notification was sent out to those that have downloaded Nixle which is the county’s emergency notification system. The notification prompted Nixle users that the schools were on “precautionary lockdown until further notice. All individuals are safe and the premise is secure. Visitors are not permitted at this time.” 

Upon arrival to B-UHS the Upshur County Sheriff’s Office deputies could be seen patrolling the area and the K-9 unit was on the scene as well. After their search and the report there was no gun found on the scene, the lockdown was lifted just after 11 a.m. Students were allowed to be dismissed but there was not a mandatory dismissal. It was reported that children remained in their lockdown position while parents picked up their children and school did not resume as usual until shortly after noon. 

Steve Wykoff was on the scene as well. Wykoff is the Director of the Upshur County DHSEM. Wykoff was contacted prior to the lockdown being lifted and confirmed that B-UHS and FETC were on a precautionary lockdown. Wykoff stated, “All individuals are safe at this time and we continue to do everything we can to keep them safe.” Wykoff advised that due to the nature of the situation he could not release further details and that the Upshur County Sheriff’s Department and the Upshur County Board of Education would be investigating. 

A grandmother Sarah Ratcliff was at the high school to pick up her grandchildren. Ratcliff said, “It’s scary when it’s this close to home. You hear about it all over and you don’t think it is going to happen where you live and we’re all wrong. The school needs more security than what it’s got. It needs metal detectors at each entrance. I love my grandkids. I love all kids. We need to be safe and feel safe. Make sure that your kids don’t have access to guns. Keep them locked up or even out of the house.” 

Once the lockdown had been lifted it was reported over by the Upshur County Communications Center that a 1996 black Dodge Ram was wanted “in connection to the lockdown at the high school.” It is speculated that the individual had been located but then took off on foot following the railroad tracks behind the Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School. 

Dr. Debra Harrison, Interim Superintendent of Upshur County Schools, released several statements, one of which was made around 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, September 8. It read, “Local law enforcement and Buckhannon-Upshur High School administrators addressed a social media posting by implementing a precautionary lockdown at the high school on Thursday, September 8. The post, made the previous evening, was reported to the high school administration Thursday morning by a student and immediate action was taken to assure the safety and security of our students and staff.  

 “After a thorough search of the building and assurance that no threat was evident the “All Clear” was issued and classes resumed on schedule at approximately 11 a.m. The quick response and attention were a joint effort according Dr. Debra Harrison, Interim Superintendent and Mr. Matthew Sisk, Director of Safety and Emergency Preparedness for Upshur County Schools.   The Upshur County Sheriff’s Department, the Buckhannon City Police and the Upshur County Office of Emergency Management were all instrumental in providing expertise and guidance in managing the situation.”

In another statement released just after 3 p.m. on Thursday, Interim Superintendent Dr. Harrison said, “Upshur County School has been notified by the Upshur Sheriff’s Department that the individual believed to responsible for the social media post resulting in the precautionary lockdown today at B-UHS has been apprehended by the Upshur Sheriff’s Department.”


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