UPDATE: Superintendent Explains Lockdown in Letter to Parents
WDIV-TV apologized to West Bloomfield School District Superintendent Gerald Hill Tuesday.
Updated: 9:39 a.m., Dec. 19 with information from letter
A television photographer testing school security in the aftermath of shootings in Connecticut caused the building to go on lockdown Monday, according to Superintendent Gerald Hill.
Hill said at Monday's School Board meeting that Gretchko Elementary School's Principal, Sally Drummond, called West Bloomfield Police about 11:30 a.m. after unsuccessfully confirming the photographer's identification, after the reporter tried to get into the school.
"The doors were all locked and the person wasn't able to get in," Hill said. The photographer had tried to access every exterior door at the school, according to Hill, which alerted teachers to tell the principal. Then, Hill said, Drummond saw the photographer in the parking lot.
"The person in the parking lot shook her hand, congratulations, you have a very secure school," Hill said. "He didn't have a camera or any identification, but he told her he was a reporter from Channel 4 news doing a story."
Hill asked Drummond to file a police report and said that West Bloomfield Police recommended the district's schools go into a "soft lockdown" mode — to cancel recess and to keep the doors locked — handled by teachers and administrators. The district later found out that the photographer was indeed testing security measures as part of a larger project from WDIV-TV in Oakland County, according to Hill.
"With the heightened sense of concern after what happened in Connecticut, parents will want to know: is there someone out there that's trying to be a copycat? That was my concern. I think it was poor judgment. A story? Fine, but go to the doors and see if they're unlocked, then identify who you are. That kind of thing was inappropriate, in my opinion," Hill said.
Hill's reference to timing is in regard to the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT in which 27 people died — including 20 children, six adults and the shooter, identified by officials as 20-year-old Adam Lanza.
According to a letter sent home to parents on Tuesday, Hill said that in a meeting between the district, WDIV-TV and Police Chief Mike Patton, the news agency explained it had received a tip from a parent at Gretchko concerned with safety.
"A Gretchko parent ... contacted the station and expressed concern that the doors at the school were unlocked and that people could gain access without using the normal secure entry system," Hill wrote.
Hill continued that he received a verbal apology from a news director at the station.