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False report of shooting prompts lockdown, early dismissal at St. Mary’s High School

Police determine there was no credible threat

A false report of a shooting at St. Mary’s High School prompted a school lockdown and police response Nov. 22.

A call was made to a non-emergency line stating that there had been a shooting inside the school in the morning. Law enforcement responded to the school, located in the Dutchtown neighborhood of south St. Louis, and determined there was no credible threat after a thorough campus check.

“St. Mary’s High School did a phenomenal job following procedures and protocol. The support of police and other authorities was tremendous,” said Todd Sweda, senior director of the Office of Education and Formation and superintendent for secondary education. “With any threat, that’s taken seriously, and people moved quickly and did what they needed to do.”

St. Mary’s dismissed students early, starting at 11 a.m. The school’s Thanksgiving break begins Wednesday, so classes will resume on Monday, Nov. 28.

Mental health professionals from Saint Louis Counseling were present at the school on Tuesday morning, staying “until the last student leaves,” Sweda said. They will be available at St. Mary’s again all day Monday when students and staff return to campus.

“It’s a shame and a tragedy that a prank like this had to put people through this type of experience, and that’s the sad reality of what schools have to deal with these days,” Sweda said. “But we’re very proud of Mr. England and his staff, including the faculty who are there for the kids, and the kids know that.”

Mike England, president of St. Mary’s High School, hugged parents as they arrived at the school to pick up their sons.

“I think everybody in the school today — faculty, staff, students — rose to an occasion of something that we all never thought that we would ever have to be a part of our lives,” England said. ” But we were prepared for what needed to be done, and the people going through the school doing their jobs commented on that as well, that our procedures were sound and followed.”

“I’m furious at whoever did this. I’m thankful, at the same time, to police officers and to our faculty and staff for how they handled the situation,” he said. “But there’s no words to describe how awful this is.”

When the students get back on Monday, the focus will be on “taking care of each other and making sure everybody has what they need,” England said. “We’re going to have counselors on location, and we’ll do what we always do — one of the strengths of St. Mary’s is that because of the size of our school, we know all of our young men. So we’ll really focus in on what each and every young man needs right now to get through this traumatic experience that they’ve just been through today.”

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