The Mar. 1 lockdown at École Bayside Middle School prompted the largest emergency response ever for School District 63. Sgt. Paul Brailey of Central Saanich Police said while there have been emergency calls to schools before, “this is probably the most substantial one we’ve dealt with over the years.”
RELATED: Lockdown at Bayside Middle School
Brailey said a number of students had seen a possibly masked person in the bushes around Bayside that they believed had a firearm. He said a number of students provided similar, detailed descriptions, which was credible enough to warrant a response, but acknowledged that the potential weapon could have been a paintball gun or something similar. Police arrived around 11:15 a.m. No suspect was located after a four-hour search involving a K-9 unit and several police departments.
Brailey said standard protocol for any school lockdown is to secure the perimeter, then call the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team (GVERT), which is comprised of officers from across the CRD. The Sidney/North Saanich RCMP assisted in containing the area.
“The main thing is making sure the school’s protected; secondary is the search of the area once we know the school is protected and no one can get in or out,” said Brailey.
Brailey said schools typically do a lockdown drill once a year, where doors are locked, students will go under desks or into closets, blinds are shut, lights are turned off and the school goes silent.
While movement and noise is not allowed during a lockdown, a degree of movement is allowed during a “hold and secure” where students can move between classrooms or the washroom. There was a short period of time where the lockdown was about to be downgraded to a hold and secure, but ultimately did not occur.
There was a debrief for Bayside parents at 5 p.m., which Brailey was briefed on but did not attend. He said parents were concerned about the potentially traumatic experience for all children, and especially those with special needs, and that children were prevented from using the washroom during the lockdown. While Brailey was at the scene with other officers, “a lot of parents came up to us and said, ‘We’re glad that this is the response. We’re glad these are all taken seriously.”
“Threats are one thing, but when a number of students who appeared credible when you spoke to them, with their description and detail, you’ve got to believe the kids,” he added.
SD63 assistant superintendent Scott Stinson, who attended along with superintendent Dave Eberwein, said in an interview that another concern was how SD63 communicated with parents as the situation unfolded. Tweets were issued by Central Saanich Police, updates were posted on the Bayside website and local media outlets were reporting from the scene. “Mostly they were very appreciative that we respond how we do and how we took it seriously,” said Stinson.
Stinson said the school was about to move to hold and secure at one point, but ultimately they were told to remain in lockdown until they students we released to parents a few minutes after 3:30 p.m. Stinson said police are in charge when a lockdown is in effect, so it is up to them to downgrade or not.
Police were there this morning, and counsellors are on site today for staff and students who found yesterday particularly challenging.
Terry Martens, whose daughter goes to Bayside, was outside waiting like many other parents. He was asleep having come home from a graveyard shift at work when he received texts and calls from other concerned parents. His daughter was able to send a text out around 11:50 a.m. that the school was in lockdown.
“Kids aren’t supposed to have their phones in classes so I guess she must have had hers,” he said.
When asked if he was tired of waiting, he said, “I’m just kind of anxious to see my daughter.”
There will be a debrief for emergency responders next week.