Modesto Police converged on Ustach Middle School in east Modesto Friday morning after someone called police claiming to be a student who was in a bathroom on campus armed with a weapon.
For several hours officers searched the school while children sheltered in place, hiding under and behind desks in dark classrooms. The threat ultimately was determined to be a hoax.
Modesto Police Department spokeswoman Sharon Bear said officers are investigating the origin of the call, which appears to have been made off campus.
She would only say that the caller claimed to have a weapon but several parents at the scene said officers told them the claim was that he or she had a gun.
“Whoever did this, I hope they get punished for it, for what they put these children through and what they put the parents through,” said Samuel Younan, one of dozens of parents who went to the school after getting word of the lockdown and potential threat.
“I mean, look at this,” Younan said gesturing to line of emergency vehicles in front of the school. “look at the logistics that have gone into this, all of the police officers that could be doing something else, ambulances, fire, all the parents that left work.”
Younan’s sixth-grade daughter Mary said all the students in her class hid in the corner behind their teacher’s desk while the teacher stood near the door with a bat.
“Some of us were just praying, some of us were laughing; I don’t know why,” she said. “I was just quiet.”
Parent Anthony Maske said his son texted him that the school was on lockdown and that it wasn’t a drill.
“I decided I’m not going to sit it out at home so ... I just drove by (the school) and that’s when I saw the (police) response,” he said.
He said the response at first was alarming, he knew the situation could be serious, but ultimately it was reassuring.
“The entire school was closed down, the perimeter all the way around, so to see that kind of response it was pretty impressive,” Maske said. “You get some sort of sense of comfort knowing that MPD responded this way.”
No injuries were reported at the school, but one student suffered an apparent medical problem during the lockdown. She was removed from the school on a stretcher.
Shortly after noon, an officer came out to tell parents that the call was a hoax.
Announcements were made over a loudspeaker when the lockdown was lifted about where students should go next.
Many of the parents who showed up, like Maske, chose to take their children out of school for the rest of the day.
“Just the experience was a little traumatizing,” he said.
Bear said, “Modesto Police Department and Sylvan School District takes this threat seriously and we will thoroughly investigate this threat. The safety of our students is the number one priority.”