After several scares and a lockdown in which some teachers failed to follow protocols, Pickerington Local School District officials say they're reviewing how best to keep students and staff safe.
Over a two-week period from Feb. 12 through March 1, district officials, students and staff endured eight events that yielded investigations or emergency actions, including seven at Pickerington High School North.
None of the incidents resulted in harm to students or staff, and all were deemed either false alarms or actions were taken to remove students who violated school policies.
Included among the scares, was a student who surveillance video showed accidentally set off a fire alarm, according to the district.
But district officials said they're now reviewing how best to secure their schools, including talking to staff who continued to teach during a Feb. 22 lockdown at North instead of following "shelter-in-place" practices that were required.
"We know we had teachers who were teaching," Superintendent Chris Briggs told attendees of a Feb. 27 public informational session about school safety. "We know it.
"We didn't ignore it." Briggs said. "We addressed it and I promise it won't happen again."
District Public Relations Director David Ball declined to say how many teachers didn't follow protocol during the lockdown, which came after a student reported she thought she saw an expelled student in the school.
No intruder was found after a room-by-room sweep of the school, and the alleged intruder was found to be home in bed, according to the Fairfield County Sheriff's Office.
The lockdown came a day after district officials said a rumor was circulated on social media that a North student involved in an earlier "incident" at North might have a "hit list."
It also resulted in roughly half of the school's 1,600 students leaving school.
Ball declined to name teachers who didn't follow protocol and also would not say if they locked their classrooms, as required during lockdowns.
Other lockdown procedures call for staff to ensure no students are outside classrooms, that teachers turn out the classroom lights and that they attempt to address "any anxiety/hysteria," Ball said.
"In this case, that didn't happen in every classroom," he said. "We have addressed that.
"One of the things that comes out of every drill or situation we face like this is that we learn things," Ball said.
"We identify areas for improvement, and we make adjustments and provide additional training to ensure we are better prepared should this happen again.
"Suffice it to say, we took opportunities after recent incidents to review proper protocols with our staff members at North," Ball said.
"We always assess this sort of thing after the fact to find such areas for improvement."
In addition to addressing lockdown procedures with staff at North, Briggs said the district was examining how to best to secure schools and how frequently it should practice emergency drills with students and staff.
"We have to look at everything," Briggs said.
Ball said the district continues to work with local public-safety officials to further hone school security and emergency-response policies.
"We are continually reviewing our practices and safety plans with the assistance of law enforcement, fire officials, (the Ohio Department of Education) and Homeland Security," he said.
"We make updates on an ongoing basis, and we are currently going through a fairly extensive review and update.
"This is done in-house with the assistance of the above-mentioned agencies."
Ball and District Business Manager Vince Utterback also pointed out the district has installed security vestibules in various schools in recent years "wherever the building design allows."
The features require building visitors to physically pass through school offices to access the buildings.
"We have upgraded and installed additional and higher quality security cameras in all of our buildings," Ball said.
Briggs and representatives from the sheriff's office and Pickerington Police Department request parents not go to schools during emergency situations because they can inadvertently block roadways and other access for safety officials and create other building security issues.
They also appealed to students and parents to speak up any time they believe a threat is imminent.
The district has created an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for parents and students to ask general questions and provide suggestions about school safety.
"Urgent concerns should, of course, be brought to the immediate attention of a building administrator or law enforcement," the district's website states.
Additionally, Briggs said the district and law enforcement officials must respond sternly to students or others who threaten school safety or initiate panic-inducing hoaxes.
"The only thing we can do is prosecute the students who do it," Briggs said. "We have no choice.
"We can expel and then we can prosecute them."
Officials did charge students in the most recent incidents in the district.
* Two 16-year-old Pickerington High School Central students have each been charged with delinquency counts of falsification, obstructing official business and disorderly conduct related to causing alarm at the high school around Feb. 18-19. One of the boys allegedly posted a video to Snapchat and the other allegedly posted a photograph to Twitter showing each handling a firearm.
* A PHS North student was been charged with delinquency counts of inducing panic, disorderly conduct, possessing criminal tools, falsification and obstructing official business after the 15-year-old he was allegedly found to be in possession of .22-caliber bullet at the school Feb. 20.
* A 12-year-old student at Pickerington Ridgeview Junior High School was charged with a delinquency count of inducing panic and two delinquency counts of aggravated menacing related to an alleged threat Feb. 22.
* A 16-year-old PHS Central student was charged with delinquency counts of inducing panic, making false alarms and disorderly conduct related to causing alarm at the high school Feb. 23. He allegedly posted on Snapchat a video of himself handling multiple firearms and then a photograph of himself with his eyes X'ed out in red and captioned "Love yall watch your back in these schools no joke plz."
--With reports from Columbus Dispatch reporter Mary Beth Lane