Holes in plan noted in review of what went right, wrong
Valdez police chief Bill Comer said he does not believe the student accused of bringing a loaded handgun to Gilson Middle School earlier this month intended to harm anyone.
“I don’t think there was a lot of malicious intent,” he said, noting that is his personal speculation. “More than that, I can’t say.”
Alaska law protects the names of minors under the age of 16 accused crimes.
While the danger of the situation was real, Comer said the school and the city’s emergency response provided a good venue to review the school and city’s response plans, especially in identifying weak points found during the incident.
Bill Armstrong, woodshop teacher for Valdez High School and middle school students, claimed his building was not notified of the lockdown that occurred late in the school day on May 14. His students were released at passing time between classes, totally unaware that there was a district-wide lockdown at all three schools after the gun was found by a student in a middle school bathroom.
“I think that’s more of a review that they (the school district) fleshed out,” Comer said.
When his last class failed to show, he began calling the high school looking for answers, but no one was answering. He also said he believes he and his students were unnecessarily placed in harm’s way.
Jacob Jensen, superintendent of Valdez City Schools, said there was a known deficiency in the school’s emergency plan regarding communications between the wood shop building, the middle school and high school.
That deficiency is rapidly becoming a moot point due to the fact that the old wood shop building is slated for demolition this summer and will be incorporated into the new middle school.
“As of today, it’s kind of immaterial,” Jensen said in an interview Monday.
Comer said police response and handling of the incident was very good, but there is always room for improvement.
“There are some things we as a police department could do better” in the event of a similar occurrence, he said, especially in the area of communications in the day and age of social media. Comer noted that police response was instantaneous in this case, as the department’s DARE officer, Aaron Baczuk, was on the school’s premises at the time of the discovery.