The office of the Superintendent of Schools confirmed Monday that Newtown schools were placed in "modified lockdown" in the afternoon. They did not elaborate on the nature of the threat.
At 2:05 pm a phone call was received at Hawley School issuing an "unspecified" threat, according to the superintendent's office. By 3 pm, school buses were authorized to take children home even though Superintendent of Schools had not formally lifted the modified lockdown order.
The Newtown police were not immediately available to comment on the report, although they did respond immediately to Hawley School. Newtown Police Chief Michael Kehoe later spoke to The Bee around 5 pm.
The superintendent's office sent the following email to parents:
At 2:05 PM this afternoon, a phone call was received at Hawley School containing an implied threat to the Hawley staff and students. In addition to the on-site security, other representatives of the Newtown Police Department and chief Michael Kehoe arrived at Hawley. They requested that Superintendent John Reed put the school system in modified lockdown.
Dismissal at Newtown High School and Newtown Middle School were impacted and buses did not leave on schedule so we anticipate that there may be some transportation delays for all schools. There will be a further update on transportation times.
In addition to the NPD, the FBI is intimately involved in helping to investigate this call as well as others that we have received in past months.
The district estimated school buses were running about 35 minutes behind schedule.
Dr Reed also sent the following email to school district parents Monday evening:
This is Interim Superintendent of Schools John Reed with an update on today’s earlier communication. All students who were transported by buses arrived home approximately 30-40 minutes late today. The last students were dropped off at approximately 5 pm.
One of the challenges we face is that we are living in a world of instant communication. When the call was received at 2:05 pm at the Hawley school, a staff member immediately called the Newtown Police Department. The police department alerted other Newtown police by radio which instantly informed those with scanners of the call to Hawley School. Police officers at each of our schools were almost instantly made aware of Hawley’s call to the police department. These officers interacted with Newtown security staff. I assume that when the modified lockdown some phone calls were being placed by staff and students.
I was informed of what happened at Hawley School at approximately 2:17 pm when I took a call from the building principal and then spoke to Chief Kehoe. As soon as I understood the nature of the circumstances, it was imperative to have conversations with principals of Middle Gate, Head O’ Meadow, Sandy Hook, and [Reed Intermediate School] to explain the recommendations that I had discussed with Chief Kehoe.
It is always important to have enough information prior to contacting parents so that the message I issue accurately conveys what has happened and what steps we are taking. That message was written and transmitted by 2:54 pm. I realize some parents wish they had received the communication sooner. I will work toward that goal but I must ensure what is said is accurate as well as timely.
It is most unfortunate that an individual would make such a call in light of what we, as a community, have already been through. I thank our staff and the Newtown Police Department for their efforts in dealing with the aftermath of this call. As I said in my earlier message, the FBI is actively assisting the Newtown Police Department in the investigation of this call.
We will have a regularly scheduled day of school tomorrow. Our mental health teams in each school will be sensitive to the additional stress this incident may have caused to our school community.
To our parents: Thank you for the vital role you always play in supporting the well-being of our children.