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Police: KIPP Academy Lockdown Likely Caused By Md. Journalism Student’s Tripod Mistaken For Weapon

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KIPP Academy lockdown mistaken intruder
McCorkel Meghan 370x278 (2) Meghan McCorkell
Meghan McCorkell joined the Eyewitness News team in July 2011 as a...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—School scare. A Baltimore City school was placed on lockdown after a report with a person with a gun on campus. It’s the second school lockdown in our area just this week.

Meghan McCorkell has more on what happened.

KIPP Harmony Academy and KIPP Ujima Village Academy were placed on lockdown around 9 a.m. Thursday after students saw what they thought was a man with a gun.

SWAT teams rushed into KIPP Academy in Northwest Baltimore.

Panicked parents plead for answers.

“There was a stranger in the building. They don’t know who it was,” one mother said.

“Everything is not OK because the kids are still in there,” another mother said.

After four hours on lockdown, students were evacuated to a nearby high school.

Investigators believe a University of Maryland journalism student was carrying a camera tripod that was mistaken for a gun.

“I think he was there with permission and it was just a misidentification by the kids,” said police commissioner Anthony Batts.

The lockdown at KIPP comes on the heels of another school scare.

That one was at Stevenson University. The Owings Mills campus was locked down for more than two hours Monday after someone reported a man with a gun.

Investigators say two students hunting ducks with a pellet gun caused that incident.

“The bottom line is that lockdowns save lives,” said security expert Rob Weinhold.

He says in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, school officials cannot be cautious enough when there’s a suspicion of a gunman on campus.

“It’s just not a time to use any judgment. Take the guesswork out. Lock down the school system. Make sure everyone is safe,” Weinhold said.

Parents were eventually reunited with KIPP Academy students.

Police said the children did the right thing, reporting something they thought was suspicious.

No one was injured in either of the lockdown incidents.

Officials with KIPP Academy have put out a statement saying it treats any threat to children’s safety as a matter of extreme urgency.

Baltimore City Public Schools released the following statement:

“This morning, KIPP Ujima Village Academy and KIPP Harmony were placed in heightened security status, based on a report of a possible intruder. Police responded and secured the building, while police and school staff together ensured the safety of all children and staff. After a thorough investigation, police determined that there was no intruder in the building or on school grounds.

“As a precaution while the large school building was searched, students were taken by bus to the shared campus of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and Western High School. Parents were contacted by phone and through local and social media channels, and were directed to pick up children from that location.

“We thank Baltimore City police, the staff and students of the KIPP schools, and City Schools staff for their exemplary handling of this situation and their calm, complete implementation of security protocols. The district responds to any possible threat to children’s safety as a matter of extreme urgency, and we appreciate the professionalism and cooperation of law enforcement, school and district staff, parents and partners.”

Mayor Rawlings-Blake and Commissioner Batts will meet with students and teachers at KIPP Academy on Friday morning.

Monique Griego has reaction from parents.

As you can imagine, when parents first learned something had happened at the school, they had no idea how serious it was or whether any children had been hurt.

For them those moments were absolutely terrifying as KIPP Academy parents waited for any information on a possible gunman at their children’s school.

“They were really freaking out because the police were pushing you away so you didn’t know what was going on,” said Michelle Ward, parent.

The school told parents to meet at Poly-Western.

They quickly swarmed the parking lot and turned to each other for support.

“My child is in there. I know he a nervous wreck,” one mother said.

Tiffany Taylor has four children at KIPP Academy.

“It’s really frightening to hear on the radio that something is going on at the school,” Taylor said.

A large group of several hundred parents were on hand when police told the crowd all children were safe and would soon be bused to Poly to reunite with their families.

“In my heart, I felt a little relieved but I still need to see my children and be reunited with them. It just won’t be over until I get them home,” Taylor said.

Though it took some time and a lot of patience from parents, the buses started arriving and reunions got underway.

Student Damaya Smith told us about her ordeal.

“Everybody started crying. We had to hide because we felt uncomfortable,” she said. “It was a little scary when it started, but I listened to my teacher.”

For her parents, it was the perfect end to a long day.

“I’m just glad everything is OK. I’m just happy that nobody got hurt,” said Derrick Smith, parent.

Parents say KIPP Academy recently had a drill to practice these types of situations.

While it did take some time to start releasing kids to their parents, the school says that was to make sure everything was done safely.

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