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UPDATE: No weapon found after new threat at Portland middle school

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UPDATE: No weapon found after new threat at Portland middle school

PORTLAND — Lyman Moore Middle School was locked down Monday for the second time this month following the discovery of another threat of violence.

Principal Lee Crocker said a student reported the threat, indicating the presence of a weapon, written on a restroom wall early in the afternoon.

Crocker said police were called and the school at 171 Auburn St. was locked down. Students were confined to their classrooms and no one without security clearance could enter or leave the building. Police searched classrooms, lockers and students, he said, but no weapon was found.

"I understand how distressing today's news can be and I apologize for any inconvenience," Crocker said, reading a prepared statement.

Police completed their search shortly after 3:40 p.m. and students were released more than an hour after the 2:25 p.m. bell had rung indicating the end of the school day.

"As you are aware, this is the second (lock-down) this month and I want to reiterate that we take these threats very seriously," Crocker said. "We have a zero tolerance for these kinds of threats and will assist the Portland Police Department fully with their investigation."

Monday's incident came on the same day Crocker informed parents that police were unable to find conclusive evidence about who was responsible for a similar threat on a bathroom mirror on Jan. 4, which also caused the school to be locked down for several hours.

Police responded in significant numbers to the Jan. 4 incident, calling in about a dozen cruisers and stationing officers outside the school with assault rifles. This time, however, officers only conducted traffic control and parents were allowed to wait at the school entrance.

This week's lock-down occurred as parents began arriving to pick up their children from school. Police officers directed traffic in a driving wind and rain, offering little information to concerned parents, who spoke through the partially opened windows of slow-moving vehicles. 

Nancy Harris was waiting in her sports utility vehicle in one of the few available parking spots to pick up her grandson.

"It's a little nerve-wracking, because they don't tell you anything," Harris said.

Harris said she attended several meetings with school officials about the Jan. 4 incident, which she heard involved a note in the girls bathroom. Now that there has been a second incident, she sais she is no longer certain that her grandson is safe at the school.

"Maybe I should take him out of here," she said. "It's scary."

School officials distributed a message to parents outside the school at approximately 2:30 p.m., saying students would not be dismissed until police completed a search of the building. Assistant Superintendent Jill Blackwood's note did not indicate the nature of the threat that forced the lock-down.

Trang Martin said having two lock-downs at the school in a month does not make her fear for her 12-year-old daughter's safety. Martin said she is confident appropriate measures were being taken to ensure the students' safety.

"I know everything is going to be OK," she said.

Crocker said the school is strengthening measures that may make it easier to determine who is leaving the threatening notes. He's asking teachers to keep better records of students who leave class and when, as well as their destination and when they return.

"That hopefully gives us a window of time in terms of when kids are out of the room," Crocker said. "We've had the policy in place for a number of years, but we need to tighten up a bit."

The lock-down Monday was initially confirmed by Sue Ward, assistant to the superintendent of schools, although a receptionist reached by telephone at Lyman Moore at first would not comment on the reported lock down and then denied it. She declined to identify herself.

Crocker said staff was not directed to deny there was a problem, noting that an announcement was made at the school, e-mails were sent to parents and a reverse 9-1-1 message was sent to area residents.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net