Roaring Fork Schools superintendent issues statement on Wednesday school safety protocols

A “hectic and scary day” in the Roaring Fork Schools and neighboring school districts on Wednesday prompted a statement from District Superintendent Jesús Rodríguez regarding what’s being referred to as a “swatting” incident that had local schools on high security alert.

Swatting is a term used by law enforcement for a particular type of hoax, where someone makes a prank call to police claiming an emergency and providing a real address for officers to respond to.

However, the incident is fake.   

“We always take any possible threat seriously,” Rodrîguez said in a written statement issued to district families and staff, and made public on the district’s website. “As these situations are distressing and strip away the sense of security in our schools and communities, we ask that you help us raise awareness about swatting.”

Separate swatting incidents in Aspen schools Wednesday morning, and another one directed at Glenwood Springs High School a short time later prompted a series of safety protocols. GSHS was put in “lockdown” mode for about 30 minutes at the direction of Glenwood Springs Police. Other schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt, as well as in Aspen and neighboring Garfield Re-2 schools, were in “secure” status on and off Wednesday morning, as well.

Similar swatting incidents occurred across the state around the same time, impacting schools in Boulder, Brighton, Alamosa and Cañon City, the Denver Post reported.

Lockdown means students and staff are asked to shelter in place inside the school as a safety precaution until given the all clear by law enforcement.

Secure protocol means all external doors are locked and no one can leave or enter the building with the exception of monitored entry approved by school leadership or law enforcement.

Glenwood Springs Police Lt. Bill Kimminau said the call made to Garfield County Dispatch sounded like a real voice, but the number was traced to outside the United States, as is often the case with such incidents.

“It sounded like a live body, so we still have to treat it as being a live thing,” Kimminau said.

Direction was given for the high school to go into lockdown, and the other schools into secure mode, until police could clear the school and give the order to lift the safety protocols, he said.

“We have to go through the motions, just in case,” Kimminau said. “It’s better to err on the side of caution and handle it as if it’s a real situation, until we can figure out otherwise.”

All safety protocols in the area schools were lifted before noon Wednesday, but the situation did prompt an early release in Aspen schools and an earlier-than-usual release of students at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale. All Roaring Fork Schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt have early release on Wednesdays anyway.

Garfield Re-2 officials also issued a statement, saying: “Specifically, this issue was in response to a threat originating in Roaring Fork School District that could have impacted Garfield Re-2. The safety of your students is the top priority and Garfield Re-2 went to secure as a precautionary measure only due to advice upon law enforcement.

All students and staff are safe. We are grateful for all of our local law enforcement partners and we appreciate your patience and understanding.”

The latest incident came on the heels of a situation in January when threats were made by a Glenwood Springs man on social media channels in Summit County, against schools there. Police traced the suspect, Charles Draughn, to Carbondale and then to Old Snowmass where he was arrested. Area schools were placed on security alert during that incident, as well.

On top of it all Wednesday, a major snowstorm that blew into the area was wreaking havoc on local roads and creating difficult travel conditions. After-school activities were not canceled, but some individual school events were postponed. 

Rodrîguez urged the public to continue to report any concerning information to school administrators, law enforcement or through Safe to Tell.

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