Waterloo West and Cedar Falls High Schools dealing with threat - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Waterloo West and Cedar Falls High Schools dealing with threat

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Officials at both Waterloo West High School and Cedar Falls High School have been dealing with what both districts have called an external threat.

Extra patrols were at Waterloo West High School this afternoon because of a "strange communication," but Waterloo district officials stress there was no "credible threat" and no students were in a lock down at any time on Friday. Cedar Falls Police locked down their high school, and also blocked the intersection in front of the building.

“We set up a perimeter around the school so no vehicles can get in,” said Cedar Falls Police Chief Jeff Olson. “We are allowing students to leave and parents to come and get them. They just need to walk a few blocks.”

Cedar Falls High received a recorded call around 11:30 a.m. On it, a voice said that a truck full of gasoline would crash into the school in 60 minutes. Officials in Cedar Falls quickly determined the threat was not credible, but kept police at the school until all the students were dismissed.

Similar threats were made at schools in the Quad Cities, Sioux City and Ankeny.

“It sounds like this is something that's occurring locally, regionally and nationally,” said Cedar Falls Superintendent Dr. Andy Pattee. “We've tracked the phone call back. It came from a known spam provider nationally. We know it's unfortunate, but it's something we take very seriously.”

Some parents decided to remove their kids from school once they heard. The district sent notifications of the situation to parents, but some say they didn't receive them.

“For that, we apologize,” said superintendent Dr. Andy Pattee. “We hit send immediately.”

Pattee said they will review their logs to see what happened, if anything.

Olson said the threat was clearly a hoax, but could still have serious consequences.

“There are serious charges any time you make a threat of this nature,” he said. “It's a felony status, and federally, once you cross state lines, there are federal charges that apply.”

Meanwhile,students at Waterloo West were going about their normal schedule, even as extra police were brought in to secure the school after unspecified threats were made, according to district spokesperson Tara Thomas.

"The communication with the police and extra patrols did not indicate a need to go into lockdown," Thomas said.

She noted similar instances of "strange communications" with police and schools have been happening nationwide.

"There was a pattern this week, and today then it culminated in us, in conjunction with surrounding districts, getting threats," Thomas said. "So we're doing what we do anyway -- making sure we keep the doors locked."

She added there was "no change in schedule or instruction" and that West did not go into lockdown.

The following phone call was sent out to Waterloo West High School parents, according to Thomas:

"Due to districts in the area receiving threatening phone communications and similar concerns nationally, we are notifying our schools and putting our staffs on high alert. This is only a precaution and not the result of a credible threat. School will continue with instruction as scheduled."

Thomas said the only reason the district sent out the call was because students were already texting and tweeting out rumors.

"We also don't want to get people unnecessarily upset, or feeling there needs to be a rush" getting their children out of school, Thomas said. "From a safety standpoint, we feel the children are safer in the schools."

After a number of phone calls and emails, KWWL received the following email message from Janelle Darst, the Coordinator of Communications and Community Relations, on behalf of Superintendent Andy Pattee.

A recorded message was received at the high school regarding an external explosion of a vehicle outside the building.  A commonly known number for scams was used to make the recorded message. This is a similar threat that is being made to other school districts.

As a precaution, the District chose to put Cedar Falls High School on a modified external lockdown at 12:07 p.m. Friday, January 16, 2015. The school day is continuing as normal inside the building. All outside doors are locked. Students are safe and secure. There will be controlled access in and out of the building via the auditorium entrance. When the lockdown is lifted, all parents/guardians will be notified.

Streets have been closed surrounding the school as a precautionary measure.

-Andy Pattee, Superintendent, Cedar Falls Schools

The superintendent also put out an updated statement shortly before 2:00 p.m.

Our first priority is student's safety. The High School received a recorded message that said a truck that was full of gas was going to run into the building and blow up, you have 60 minutes prior to this occurring. This is similar to messages occurring with several Districts across the State of Iowa. Police were immediately contacted and formed a perimeter around the streets near the high school to control flow of traffic for safety and security reasons. This is why the High School went into a modified external lockdown as we control the flow in and out of the building. All students are safe and secure and we knew that this unsubstantiated threat was called in from a known spam phone number.

KWWL's Michael Crowe, Eric Page and Adam Amdor contributed to this report.


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