Students sent home with message to parents about how to act during a school lockdown

Reporter: Erika Jackson Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
FILE photo of a Charlotte County deputy response. Credit: WINK News.

Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office says parents of students made matters worse during a deputy response to a school lockdown in January.

A lockdown occurred last month after reports of a man near two schools with a gun. That man turned out to be an iguana hunter carrying a pellet gun.

CCSO says mistakes from parents on that day could have added complications if there really had been an active shooter.

Charlotte County Sheriff Bill Prummell sent Charlotte County students home with a letter Friday for parents about how they should behave during school lockdowns.

We spoke to a parent of a student involved that day and looked at what the sheriff’s office says parents can learn from that incident.

Jan. 28, Candace Stevens was at Englewood East barber shop Wiseguys.

“It was a very busy day,” said Stevens, the owner of Wiseguys barber shop.

Stevens said she noticed her phone buzzing with calls and flooded with texts, one coming from her daughter inside L.A. Ainger Middle School just north of Rotonda West.

“Hey mom there’s a shooter, a shooter of some sort, a person on campus, and we are on lockdown,” Stevens recalled the message from her duaghter.

So Stevens drove down to the school and parked about a mile away.

“Your worst fear is that you’re not hearing everything,” Stevens said. “Everything is quiet. That something bad is going on.”

CCSO says concerned parents like Stevens did the right thing by staying out of law enforcement’s way.

“Although it wasn’t an active shooter type situation, it came across as that,” said Skip Conroy, the community affairs supervisor with CCSO.

But some parents made the deputy response more difficult.

Charlotte County Public Schools sent students home with a letter from Sheriff Bill Prummell. His letter says parents argued with deputies and called their kids phones that day, which could have impacted safety during a real active shooter scenario.

“It can cause potential harm to, not only the deputies, but the children who we’re trying to protect,” Conroy said.

The school district also said in an email statement it works closely with the sheriff’s office during these types of stations. It stressed the trust in the sheriff’s leadership and knowledge of threats to schools and management of school lockdowns.

“Our school district and law enforcement train for instances like this and take the safety of students, staff and parents seriously,” shared in the Charlotte County Public Schools’ statement.

Sheriff Prummell wants parents to trust law enforcement to do their jobs if there is a next time. The sheriff’s office says it’s had discussions on its response from that day and continues to talk about areas of improvement.

“I felt good about sending them back to school the next day,” Stevens said. “I knew that they were going to be fine at that school for how quickly they responded.”

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