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Ellicottville schools go into shelter in place, lockout following discovery of threatening note

By Kellen M. Quigley

An Ellicottville Central School District student taken into custody Friday, March 1 after the school went into a shelter in place and lockout has been charged.

On Monday, the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) announced a 13-year-old student had been arrested for “making a terroristic threat.” The suspect had been referred to Cattaraugus County Family Court, according to police.

District officials initially issued the order to go into a lockdown March 1 shortly after becoming aware of a threatening note in the school around 8 a.m.

State troopers immediately responded to the school along with other local law enforcement personnel. About an hour later, authorities shifted to a shelter-in-place order and lockout.

At approximately 12:30 p.m., the security protocols were lifted, the superintendent of the district, Robert Miller, said in a “robocall” to parents of Ellicottville students.

According to a release from state troopers, no immediate credible threat exists.

“The student was taken into custody and charges are pending,” Miller said Friday. “They are still continuing on with the investigation.”

As part of the shelter-in-place, students stayed inside their classrooms and continued their normal activities with doors locked.

Meanwhile, the lockout secured the perimeter of the building by locking all external doors and denying anyone access.

The state police and its BCI responded to the single-building district after school officials reported the threat. Authorities at the state police Machias headquarters said they could not discuss the case further because of the ongoing investigation.

In addition to state police, both Ellicottville Police and Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office personnel were at the school.

Miller said both the shelter-in-place and lockout were lifted only after district officials and state police determined the building was secure “because we had been up and down the halls and all the perimeter doors were locked.”

Due to the security measures continuing past lunchtime, Miller said the district was able to serve elementary school students their lunch in the classrooms while maintaining the security of the building.

“Everybody got the same lunch, and it was a pretty simple lunch,” he explained. “We had law enforcement escort some of the kitchen staff and a couple teachers and went down the halls with a big cart.”

Following the end of serving the younger kids the shelter in place was lifted, Miller said, but the older students had missed their lunch period by about half an hour.

“At that point it was easier to come back to the cafeteria and serve them there,” he said. “It was a little unique, but by that point we determined it was safe.”

Nearly a year ago, the school went into a shelter in place and lockout on Friday, March 23, 2018. Miller said the district had learned from that incident and was better able to handle events Friday.

“When I made the call to the parents … I could share a little more information than last time around,” he said. “But I think we learned from last year and did things a little bit differently this time, and better and smoother.”

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