The Paly Voice

Palo Alto High School goes into 86-minute lockdown following threat

Kasra Orumchian

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The Palo Alto Police Department blocks off Embarcadero Road, following a lockdown and threat at Palo Alto High School. The lockdown began at the beginning of fifth period, and was lifted at 2:10 p.m., after the PAPD determined that the threat was “likely a hoax.” “I don’t know what was going through my head [during the lockdown], I was just texting everyone and seeing if they were safe,” senior Julia Asher said. Photo: Dylan Zou

The Palo Alto Police Department blocks off Embarcadero Road, following a lockdown and threat at Palo Alto High School. The lockdown began at the beginning of fifth period, and was lifted at 2:10 p.m., after the PAPD determined that the threat was “likely a hoax.” “I don’t know what was going through my head [during the lockdown], I was just texting everyone and seeing if they were safe,” said senior Julia Asher, who spent the lockdown at Town and Country. Photo: Dylan Zou.

Police presence on campus will increase temporarily after Palo Alto High School went into lockdown early this afternoon, in response to a threat made against the school in a phone call to 911, according to the Palo Alto Police Department.

The threat came just days after an evacuation at nearby Cupertino High School, as well as the March For Our Lives demonstration and a school walkout in honor of the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

According to the PAPD’s Twitter feed, officers responded to the threat early this afternoon and later determined the call to be “likely a hoax.” Assistant Principal Adam Paulson said the school initiated the lockdown at around 12:44 p.m. in rapid response to the notice.

“I was coming from McDonalds and I had art, and [art teacher] Ms. [Kate] McKenzie just pops out of the classroom and pulls me into the class,” junior Jeseop Hwang said. “I was kind of confused. Some people thought it was real, some people just didn’t know what was going on.”

The administration ordered students to remain inside their classrooms and barricade doors until the lockdown was lifted at 2:10 p.m.

“At first I didn’t really think it was real and then we started stacking the desks by the door,” junior Kevin Cox said. “Once we got settled down, I started to feel kind of scared and nervous.”

Assistant Principal of Operations Jerry Berkson said no violence occurred on campus, and refuted rumors that a student was apprehended due to possession of ammunition.

“It was found he [the student] was not a suspect,” Berkson said.

The subject of the rumor, who was temporarily pulled out of class by police, responded to these accusations. “I don’t really know what basically happened, but someone called the cops saying I was going to shoot up the school or something,” he said. “Someone was joking around, but it was not a good way to joke around, especially since school shootings are a very sensitive topic around our nation.” The Paly Voice is not releasing the name of the student to protect his identity.

Berkson said he believes the lockdown operated smoothly, and encourages students who are seeking support to visit the Wellness Center on campus.

“I thought it [the lockdown] went well,” Berkson said. “The place was pretty empty, it seemed quiet. It’s not easy to sit somewhere like that … but people did a good job. And hopefully everyone, emotionally, is okay, and if not they should go to the Wellness Center.”

Contrary to Berkson’s statement, some teachers are saying they have long been asking the district to install blinds on their windows and that having blinds could make a big difference during an actual emergency.

While most students barricaded themselves in classrooms, some were forced to shelter across the street. Senior Julia Asher was on her way to Town and Country when the lockdown was announced.

“Nobody knew what was happening, there were no teachers, there was nobody,” Asher said. “Nobody was letting us get near [the school], it was kind of like a sitting-and-waiting game.”

When the lockdown was eventually lifted, many were struck by the gravity of the situation.

“I definitely feel that Parkland demonstrated that it [a school shooting] can happen anywhere and for the threat to be called into Paly, it really shows that this is something we have to think about too,” Cox said.

Stay tuned for further updates, including a digital press release from PAPD.

Additional reporting by Esther Cao, Micaela Wong, Nisha McNealis and Julia Qiao

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