School Shooting Hoax

Greta Yauch, Editor in Chief

On November 15th, 2022, an active shooter threat was reported at Sanford High School. While the threat was quickly identified as a hoax, as there was no threat at Sanford, it still managed to cause great disruption to Sanford High School and surrounding schools, including York High School.

Sanford High School was not the only school to receive a hoax threat that day, November 15th. In fact, according to an article on News Center Maine on December 1st, 2022, “More than 10 schools throughout Maine went into lockdown on Nov. 15 after regional dispatch centers received 911 calls reporting an active shooter on campus.” School shooting hoaxes have been occurring more often than usual throughout the state, and throughout the country. NPR reported on October 24th, 2022, that between September 13th and October 21st, 182 schools in 28 states received false calls about threats.

The YHS administration first received a message from the SRTC director at 8:48 AM, according to Co-principal Amanda Suttie. “The message let us know that they were in lockdown and police were onsite,” she explains. About one hour after that first message, YHS was officially alerted that the shooting was a hoax. During that hour, protocols were activated to prepare YHS for the potential effects of the perceived threat.

Suttie explains that emergency protocol is implemented depending on individual situations, but in every emergency the first step is a meeting with the whole administration team. In addition to the administration team, there is also a group of teachers called the Crisis Response Team that helps the school during these types of situations. Matt Convery, a member of this team, explains its role as a “team of administrators, teachers, counselors, and support staff (around 10 of us) who convene when there is a tragedy or crisis in the school or outside the school.” After the staff was alerted via email about the situation, the administration and counselors decided that the Crisis Response team should meet as soon as possible to decide next steps.

While the threat was soon deemed a hoax, many agree it affected students in a very real way. Convery expressed that some students “were visibly upset (tears, fear, anger, shaking). Many were trying, like all of us, to get real info and answers and were frustrated by conflicting info. Some were outwardly oblivious and went on with their day. I feel like there were supports put in place relatively quickly to help those students with the strongest reactions and needs.” Suttie adds, “We saw students who were concerned for their friends that were at Sanford High School. This also made some of them anxious and scared to be in school that day. We also heard from students that even though the threat was deemed a hoax, the feelings students (and staff) had been very real. We are always focused on student and staff safety and that is why we have plans and procedures to implement if we are ever in an emergency situation.”

Many agree that it’s incredibly saddening and frustrating to see the immense disruption this hoax threat caused that day, even though the threat was not real. Convery explains that when he found out the threat was not real, “feelings turned to anger at those responsible. This hoax impacted the entire State of Maine, including students, parents, and staff…I believe situations like this are extremely detrimental to all of us affected, especially the student body.”

The Crisis Response Team also met after school to debrief and discuss what could’ve been done better and faster so that the team, and the school as a whole, may prepare itself for potential future situations like the one on November 15th. 

While the effects of the school shooting hoax of November 15th are nowhere near the devastation caused by real attacks that have had a large impact on this country in recent years, for many YHS students, this was their first encounter with a situation close to home. Senior Zoe Noonan says, “The fact that people at YHS knew students at Sanford, and that we didn’t know it was a hoax at first, made it feel uncomfortably close to home. We’ve become desensitized to school shootings recently as we see them in the news so often, but it felt very different and very real when we first learned of the shooting at Sanford. Even when we found out that it was a hoax, I still felt shaken.”

Hopefully, there will never be a similar incident ever again. But if it does happen again, as we are seeing is happening across the country, students can be assured that teachers and administration, as well as police officers and school resource officers like Officer Darrow, will be there to support students in whatever situation may arise.