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Classes resume at Portland middle school after threat of violence, lock-down

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Classes resume at Portland middle school after threat of violence, lock-down

PORTLAND — Lyman Moore Middle School was locked down for more than two hours Monday morning after discovery of  a threat of mass violence at the school.

Principal Lee Crocker said a student reported finding a "threatening note indicating the presence of a weapon" in a restroom at around 9:20 a.m. Police were called and the school was immediately locked down.

Police Cmdr. Michael Sauschuck on Monday afternoon said evidence was collected and the incident remains under investigation. Sauschuck would not reveal whether the threat was found in a boys' or girls' restroom. He also declined to describe the nature of the threat.

"There will be a full-blown investigation into the incident," Sauschuck said. "We have no suspect in custody at this time. We're dealing with kids as they come forward with information."

Police said students were not allowed to use cell phones during the lock down. All students, classrooms and lockers were searched, and normal school activities resumed by 12:45 p.m.

Crocker said teachers would discuss the incident with students and encouraged parents to do the same.

"For Lyman Moore parents, I understand how distressing today's news can be," Crocker said. "I would encourage you to talk openly with your child about what happened today. As always, know that I'm available to answer any questions or concerns you may have."

Parents began showing up at the school shortly after 11 a.m. to pick up their children. They were greeted by a police cruiser with its emergency lights flashing, blocking the entry at  Lyseth Moore Road.

Lyseth Elementary School is located next to the middle school, but was not locked down.

Amanda Cummings arrived in tears, hoping to see her 14-year-old daughter, who is a special education student. Police told her all the students were safe, but she said she wanted to be certain.

Cummings said she was originally told by a friend that a gun was found in the school, but police said no gun was found and no one was in custody.

"I'm scared. I feel like I'm going to get sick," Cummings said. "I just want to see her and touch her and make sure she is OK."

Although school officials and police officers told parents their children were safe, some parents were clearly frustrated with the lack of information that was immediately available.

"I'm irritated," said Willita Dag, who has two children attending the school. "They didn't tell me a thing."

Before heading to the school, Dag said she called the school and was told a note said "I have a gun today and I'm going to kill everyone in the school." Dag said she was concerned for her son, who has behavioral issues and does not respond well to stress.

Around noon, a police officer with an assault rifle strapped across his chest told a crowd of more than two dozen parents they would soon be escorted into the school to see their children. Moments later, City Hall spokeswoman Nicole Clegg was ushered into the school.

Twenty minutes later, Assistant Superintendent of Schools Jill Blackwood, Human Resources Director Jolene Hart and School Benefit and Safety Director R. Scott Wymann arrived.

Some parents said they were able to talk with school officials on the phone, while others had only heard of early news reports. Some waited outside in the frigid temperatures in their pajamas or exercise clothes for information.

By 12:45 p.m., parents were lining up at the front door to remove their children from school.

Some parents said the threat may have been an escalation of bullying at the middle school.

Mark Malinick said his daughter, who attends Lyman Moore, recently had an iPod and a phone stolen. While acknowledging it is difficult to keep kids safe all of the time, Malinick said Monday's incident makes him uneasy about the schools being safe.

"This is supposed to be a sacred ground," he said. "Where else can kids go to feel safe?"

School officials and police said they are confident the school's emergency preparedness plan worked and the students remained calm and were informed throughout the incident.

"Certainly, no principal wants to have to deal with a situation like this, but I have complete confidence in how everyone handled this situation," Crocker said. "From the students to the teachers to the police officers, safety was the number one objective."

Sauschuck agreed.

"I think (the school) did an outstanding job," he said. "(The plan) has been in place for years. Their staff really snapped right in and took care of business."

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

This story has been updated to remove an inaccurate attribution.

Photo: Billings

Portland Police Officer Kevin Haley secures the perimeter of Lyman Moore Middle School Monday morning after a threatening note was discovered in a school restroom.