All students and staff at Northtowns Academy BOCES in the Town of Tonawanda are safe, following a school-wide lockdown on Thursday afternoon. The lockdown was initiated following a report of an armed student threatening to shoot.
The lockdown began around 2 p.m. Thursday, after what Tonawanda Police described as an "unconfirmed report" of an armed student at the Northtowns Academy.
The school, located on Dexter Terrace off Niagara Falls Boulevard, houses the Erie 1 BOCES exceptional education program, focusing on core curriculum classes.
Police told reporters they believe the call came from a female student, who later admitted it was a lie.
"About 2:15 this afternoon, we were notified that there was an unconfirmed report that there was an armed student inside the building at the NorthTowns Academy, Erie 1 Boces. The school immediately went into lockdown. Right now we are just trying to figure out what is going on," Carosi said.
Police from the Town of Tonawanda responded in conjunction with the Town of Amherst Police Department because the school sits close to a jurisdictional border. Police also closed Dexter Terrace to traffic at Niagara Falls Boulevard.
"We are in direct communications [with the school] right now. We have no reports of any violence or any issues right now inside the school. We are taking a proactive response to make sure the safety of students and faculty are safeguarded," said Carosi.
Parents were notified of the event by robo-call and were asked to go to 2065 Niagara Falls Boulevard in the Home Depot Plaza, the site of a closed Wal-Mart for a staging area with police. Some called the school directly for information.
“They just wanted to know the same questions. What was going on? And we shared the same information – exactly what we could, what was taking place, and everything was handled. All calls went very well,” said Erie 1 BOCES Director of Exceptional Education Justin DeMartin.
Immediately after the lockdown was lifted, DeMartin spoke to reporters outside the school. When asked to confirm the report of the weapon came from a student, DeMartin said he could not comment because the situation involved students. He did, however, confirm the report was made to a staff member.
For almost two hours, students remained safely locked in their classrooms. DeMartin praised the cooperation of faculty, students, bus drivers and parents for their calm response to the situation.
“All schools across the county, and even the state, follow the same lockdown safety procedures. And they handled everything as they should have and how it’s always been practiced within any drill,” said DeMartin.
Faculty worked side by side with Town of Tonawanda Police throughout the lockdown – an interaction DeMartin described as “excellent.”
On Friday, the school will return to normal activity.
“We will obviously debrief with both students and staff,” said DeMartin. “But everything will go as usual.”
Parents will receive an update by phone.