EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – KTSM 9 News reporter Karla Draksler sat down for an exclusive interview with El Paso Independent School District Superintendent Diana Sayavedra to talk about an incident involving a person with a weapon near campus that put Franklin High School on lockdown on Monday.
Sayavedra addressed concerns coming from parents and students, some speaking to KTSM, about their safety on campus.
KTSM received an email from a parent who says she was able to walk into the magnet building as the lockdown was taking place. She was then instructed by law enforcement to exit.
A video that surfaced online on Monday night and was being shared into Tuesday morning showed an alleged student with a weapon, captioned with what appears to be a threatening message.
KTSM received that video from a parent of a Franklin High School student along with a message screenshot of parents communicating not to send their children to school on Tuesday.
Sayavedra said FBI investigated the video and found it was a non-credible threat.
She said that the suspect who prompted the lockdown was not an EPISD student. The EPISD chief of police confirmed that he is a minor.
Read the full interview here:
How did the district respond to yesterday’s incident?
Well, I first want to start off by thanking law enforcement. We had a number of different law enforcement agencies that, when the incident was reported, immediately responded to the campus. We had FBI. We had obviously El Paso City Police and El Paso PD, all who collaborated and secured the campus very swiftly and very quickly.
It is my understanding that we did have a student…You know, we have “see something, say something” campaign. And we talked to the students about the importance of following through when they see something that they think is not normal.
So this young man did report that he saw a subject in the exterior of the campus who did not appear to be coherent, possibly under the influence. He reported it. The campus immediately went into action. The principal called the lockdown immediately.
And as I said, law enforcement responded very swiftly and the campus was secure. You know, within minutes the subject was apprehended shortly thereafter. And he is in custody.
Do we know as of now the suspect’s identity?
I do not.
Do you know if it’s a student?
Is there a certain protocol that EPISD schools follow in case of these lockdowns? And how do those work?
The protocol is that when there is an incident that warrants securing the campus, they will go into the lockdown. The police and law enforcement is automatically communicated with and they respond immediately. I mean, that protocol went as it should have.
Was there anything that fell through the cracks on Monday during lockdown?
About this time yesterday afternoon, our senior leadership team came together and we did do a debrief on the incident. And unfortunately, I will say that it was concerning to me to find out that we did have one exterior door that was not secure, and we did have a parent report to us that they were able to enter the building through that door while the lockdown was in place. And so that was a breach of protocol. It’s my understanding that the door itself, the camera feature is working. The badge feature is malfunctioning.
At this time, however, the door can be secured manually and with a lock. It should have been secured and locked and it was not.
How are you addressing it at this time?
There was a work order that was placed to repair the door in October when it malfunctioned for the second time. And there’s a part that’s on backorder. However, in the meantime, as I said, the door should be secured manually with the key.
The camera feature and the ring feature are functional, and so we’re supporting the campus by providing them additional personnel so that we have somebody stationed at that door so that they can physically let people in and out of the door.
As parents come in and that is at the freshmen magnet campus, not at the campus at large.
Do you think that your staff and students were prepared for this situation?
I do. You know, our students, they respond very quickly. They follow instructions, you know. So they were. Our teachers were prepared. As I said, the lockdown itself and all other protocols were followed as we would expect them. The breach in the protocol was that exterior door that left us somewhat vulnerable in this particular situation, thankfully.
As I said, the subject was apprehended. We’re addressing that situation. I was on campus myself today to debrief with the principal as well, to offer as much support as she needs to make sure that not necessarily just security-wise, but just if there’s any support that she needs in responding to parents, in working with students.
We also want to deploy counselors there if we feel like our students are uneasy or feeling anxious about coming to school. We want parents to know that we’re prepared to receive them and assist with reducing any anxiety that they might have.
We saw a video circulating online this morning of allegedly a student showing a gun, apparently pointing and shooting a gun at a bed with what appears to be a threatening message. Have you addressed that? Some students said they did not go to school today also.
Understandably so, if parents felt like it was safer to keep their kids home today. We certainly respect that because parents are in the best position to make the decisions for their children.
I want to reassure parents that the campus is safe. With respect to the video that surfaced, the FBI has worked that case throughout the night. We had patrols at the campus throughout the night. The video wasn’t and the threat was unsubstantiated.
We also received a photo of what seems to be inside the classroom and furniture being put on the door. Have you seen that photo?
I have not seen that photo. But I’d be certainly open to review it. And obviously, our police department would investigate and we would work with the campus to determine what the purpose of that was.
But that’s not necessarily part of our protocol.
Are you going to increase training drills for students and staff when it comes to these lockdowns?
I would say that, again, the lockdown, once it was instituted, flowed exactly according to protocol. We’re always reinforcing messaging. We meet with principals twice a month, every month. We reinforce security and safety. We’ll continue to message the importance of consistency, understanding the emergency management plan and employing all of the experts.
I visited with the principal today. And so I feel very comfortable with the plans that we have in place. Again, I know that this particular situation was unsettling for the parents and for the students and for the faculty.
We’ve resolved the issue. We’ve got the issue taken care of. The door, although it has not been repaired, it will be locked and is locked manually. And we’ll support the campus with additional personnel so that they can secure it at all times.
When we’re inconsistent, that’s when we leave ourselves vulnerable. So in this particular case, we need to rely as a leader to continue to reinforce the importance of consistency and employing the protocols that we have in place to keep all of us safe and secure.
Do you have any message for students and parents if they are in need of counseling or mental health support?
Absolutely. You know, parents, if your students are feeling anxious, we will have additional support at the campus in terms of counseling so that we can serve as your students. If you have any questions, I encourage you to call the administration.
They’re very open to answer questions. I had my assistant superintendent of secondary schools and my chief of schools that were on campus all day today will continue to support the campus. They fielded calls from parents and responded to parents.
I responded to emails from parents. So certainly if you have questions or concerns, your feedback is important to us.
For students, I would continue to reinforce to students — It’s important for you when you see something to say something, report it immediately to an adult prior to posting it to Instagram or whatever social media outlet you’re going to post it to. You need to report it to an adult so that we can stay safe and and safely secure the campus for all students, employees, staff.
Are their protocols that you guys follow? I mean, is there is there a system?
Our first responsibility is to secure the campus and the safety and security of and so our secondary response would be to begin to draft communication, because at that point, we know that we’re going to need to inform parents of what’s happening at the campus. We’re going to need to inform our board of trustees.
And we’re going to need to have statements to respond to the media. So we do have mechanisms to send out information to parents.
Our goal is to, first of all, secure the campus. And we want to make sure that we have accurate information before we just start communicating out.
Because if we communicate out too soon and we don’t have the facts that we need to really reassure parents that their children are safe, then it’s a risk for us to do that.
We debrief that as well as a senior administrative team so that we can look at what we’re looking at now is what is you know, as we look at national media and we look at responses from across the country, what is an acceptable lag time between when an incident occurs and when notification needs to go out to parents to alert them that there is an incident at the school and that their children are safe and secure. So again, we do have a mechanism to do that, but we can certainly improve on that and make sure that we expedite any communication so that parents feel secure, that their kids are safe at school.
Do you think social media creates a larger panic?
Maybe it does, unfortunately. Social media in many cases distorts a situation that is absolutely under control and creates a level of anxiety that is, you know, typically not warranted. So, you know, but I certainly understand students texting their parents.
They’re fearful. They’re afraid that’s going to be their first response.
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