The school day resumed at 9:50 a.m. Tuesday in Columbia Falls School District following a soft lockdown that was put into effect around 8 a.m. when phone calls from an irate parent raised safety concerns.
Around 8 a.m., Columbia Falls Police Department responded to a report from the high school that an “extremely irritated” parent had used profanity during a phone call with a high school administrator and may be en route to the school.
When a school resource officer arrived at the high school, the parent reportedly called again, continued to be irate and wanted to speak with the principal in person, according to a press release issued by Columbia Falls Police Chief Clint Peters. The officer remained at the high school to ensure the meeting took place in a peaceful manner.
A short time later, police learned the man may have been considering self-harm and was having suicidal thoughts. With the potential of a suicidal and upset individual arriving at the school, the decision was made to put the high school on soft lockdown.
Columbia Falls Superintendent Bradshaw extended the lockdown to the entire district. The district sent notifications to families as the lockdown went into effect and when it ended.
During the initial investigation, there was information the parent may have ideations of suicide by cop. Additional officers were stationed at other “school zones” around the district as a precaution.
Phone contact was made with the man, who reportedly agreed to seek medical treatment for the suicidal thoughts and was escorted to a facility for care. In the press release, Peters stated the parent “never was, in fact, en route to the school for any reason other than to discuss the issues between the school and his child,” nor did he threaten the school, school staff or law enforcement.
It wasn’t long ago that a Columbia Falls school went into a lockdown. Ruder Elementary was under lockdown for roughly an hour after someone reported a Snap Chat exchange where a young man photographed holding a gun allegedly stated he lived by the elementary school and could settle a dispute in the school parking lot.
Bradshaw said going into lockdown is not a decision that is taken lightly by administrators because it may cause potential stress or trauma, which is not limited to students or staff, but can extend to parents who may find it difficult to receive limited information as an incident unfolds, while at the same time are asked not to go to their child’s school during a lockdown for safety reasons.
“Our number one concern is the safety of the kids. We try not to go into a lockdown on every thing that happens; at the same time, we are pretty cautious when it comes to this type of thing,” Bradshaw said.
Peters echoed a similar statement.
“Our department does not take the fact that your children had to endure a lockdown procedure, lightly. We understand that these moments can sometimes be traumatic because of national events. However, we want to take every precaution to protect the students and staff within our community and act accordingly even when a threat cannot be directly confirmed.”
No charges are pending. The name of the individual will not be released due to the nature of the incident as a mental-health issue.
Montana Highway Patrol and Whitefish Police Department assisted in the investigation.
Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or email@example.com.