Lockdown accidentally triggered at MHS and MEH

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Kelsey Lietzen

Students wait in an English 10 class after the all clear sign was given. The lockdown was a false alarm, triggered by the accidental use of an emergency badge.

This story is still developing, and is being updated as more information is made available.

At 11:23 a.m. on Thursday, a school wide lockdown was accidentally triggered at Meridian High School and Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School. No students were in danger, and there was no emergency at the campus; this was a false alarm. The lockdown was triggered when a parent volunteer took a badge off of the front desk that triggers a lockdown when swiped, instead of a faculty identification card.

“We had a parent volunteer this morning to do teacher appreciation work on behalf of our teachers, and they grabbed a badge off of the front desk,” said Falls Church City Public Schools Superintendent Peter Noonan. “That badge was one of our emergency badges, and as soon as you swipe that badge we go into immediate lockdown and the police are contacted.” 

“It was not an emergency,” Noonan explained. “Everything that was supposed to happen happened in that emergency response, but unfortunately what happened shouldn’t have happened because the wrong badge was used.”

The emergency badge that was used is the same size and is in the same plastic sheathing as the badges carried by staff. However, other than that they do not look similar to the identification badges carried by faculty members. 

“[The emergency badge is] a bright red badge, it’s 100% red…[The two badges] look extraordinarily different,” Noonan said.

Parents were notified of the lockdown within five minutes of it starting, as was the Falls Church City Police Department. Police officers were at the campus once they had been notified. Updates were provided and sent directly throughout the lockdown by John Wesley Brett, the FCCPS communications director. Notifications were sent that it appeared to be a false alarm and students were sheltering in place. 

“All of the appropriate safety precautions we put in place happened,” Noonan said. “MEH went into a lockdown, and a shelter in place as well.”

Student emotions were mixed, marked by confusion and fear during the lockdown.

“It got pretty scary when I realized that it wasn’t a drill,” sophomore Dmitry Oleynik said.

Alarms stopped at 11:55 a.m., and students were released at approximately 12:20 p.m., once both MEH and MHS were cleared by Falls Church City Police Officers.

“I hope that students that need extra support or time to sort of work through this scary moment take it, and speak to their school counselor, psychologist, social worker, parents, teachers, to get the support they need,” said Noonan. 

CORRECTION (May 6) – A previous version of the article stated that the parent was handed the badge by a staff member, when instead, the badge was taken from the front desk. The story has been updated to reflect this information.