As police evacuated KIPP Academy in west Baltimore following reports of a possible gunman at the school April 3, anxious parents waited behind police lines for news of their children.
“Heartbreaking. You don’t know what to do,” said Tierra Young, mother of a six-year old in the academy. “This is the worst experience I could ever imagine.”
Police and city officials said later in the day that the lockdown of the two Greenspring Avenue schools which comprise KIPP Academy, Kipp Harmony Academy and Kipp Ujima Village Academy, was a false alarm. According to The Baltimore Sun, Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said students mistook a man with a tripod for an armed person.
“They saw something they misconstrued or thought was something of danger,” Batts told the newspaper. “They did the right thing, they reported it and we responded to it. And I don’t think anything has gone wrong here. I think everything has gone very well.”
Together, the two schools serve low income students in grades K-12, according to the institution’s website.
The mood was tense across Greenspring Avenue, where parents and guardians of students gathered to wait as children were evacuated from the building. Young said that the police made three statements announcing that their kids were safe.
Tonya Jones, whose son Jeremy Able is a sixth grader at KIPP Ujima Village, said she could not understand how someone without proper credentials could get into the school.
“Why was he able to walk through the building, and why is he [not] arrested if he didn’t have any official business in the building?” she told the AFRO.
Jones waited more than two and a half hours outside the school after finding out about the incident on Facebook.
“My concern is about the parents who don’t have transportation or don’t know about the whole situation, because not everyone watches the news,” she said.
Jones said that Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake told parents that a student had reported seeing a White man in the school with what appeared to be a gun, prompting a lockdown.
According to a statement posted on Kipp Baltimore’s Facebook page just after 12 p.m., once school officials were notified of the possible intruder, both academies “activated standard emergency procedures and every child is safe.”
The statement said police were in the process of confirming that the building was secure and that students would be transported to Poly High School, where parents could pick them up. There was some confusion among the parents, however, as to whether their kids had already been sent to Poly.
Cleo Woodard, who has a niece and two nephews at KIPP, said that one parent had driven all the way to Poly only to find out his child was not yet there.
Many parents remained across Greenspring Avenue, waiting to see which color uniform children were wearing as they were evacuated. Because student uniforms are color-coded by grade, parents hoped to identify whether their children’s class was on the way to Poly based on the color of their shirts.
“We’re not leaving until the buses come and put our kids on them, and then we’ll go to Poly,” said Stephanie Conyers, whose six-year old twins are students at KIPP.
Conyers found out about the situation via text message. For Woodard, not receiving word directly from the school about what had happened was disconcerting.
“It was wrong how they did not let us know that this was going on,” she said.
In a statement to the AFRO, Rawlings-Blake said her heart dropped when she first heard of the lockdowns.
“I am grateful that this was a false alarm, but it serves as a reminder that we must always remain vigilant and act quickly when our children are exposed to danger,” she said.