Duke of Connaught’s Hold and Secure

Everyone is safe.

**Update: The Hold and Secure is lifted as of Monday October 2**

What’s going on

My fourth grader’s school has been in the Toronto news for the last two days. On Thursday September 28 the school received a letter containing an ‘unconfirmed threat.’ The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) says that they called 911 immediately after receiving the threat, and the school has since been following ‘hold and secure’ procedure. A ‘police presence’ has been at the school since yesterday morning and news vans have been camped out since this morning, as far as I have seen. As of now reports are saying that a ‘person of interest’ was arrested last night and according to Global News,” Police said the person of interest faces domestic related charges that are unrelated to the threat at the school.” CBC News is reporting, “Const. Allyson Douglas-Cook told CBC Toronto the person is not currently involved with the school, and has been charged for other unrelated offenses in the past.” The school, the TDSB, and police have reiterated from the start that all children and staff are safe.

Hold and Secure vs. Lockdown

This is what the TDSB says:

Hold & Secure is a response to a threat and/or incident in the general vicinity of a school, but not on or very near to school property. School life continues as normal inside the school; however, as a precautionary measure, outer doors are locked and no one enters or leaves the building. Note: As a result of Secure Access Systems that are installed at TDSB Elementary schools, outer doors are typically locked during the learning day.

Lockdown is used in a serious emergency situation where the threat is inside a school, on or very near to school property. A Lockdown minimizes access and visibility in an effort to shelter students, staff and visitors in secure locations. Similar to a Hold & Secure, all outer doors are locked; however a Lockdown requires that all students be kept in classrooms or other designated locations and that inner doors also be locked where possible. Entry to, and exit from, the building is restricted to emergency services personnel only.

During a Lockdown, lights are turned off in the classroom/office, curtains/blinds are closed where possible, cell phone use is restricted and all people inside the building should remain quiet. During a Lockdown, school phones will not be answered as the administration is tending to the ongoing situation. As cell phone use is restricted, students are asked not to use phones until cleared to do so. It’s important to note that each school across the Toronto District School Board is required to practice two Lockdown drills per year to ensure students and staff know what to do in case of an emergency.

For the past two days the school’s doors have been locked, student have been let out one class at a time – out the front door, and police have been standing inside the front doors. The police presence has been very visible.

Communications

This is the message I received from the school mailing list at 9:03 a.m. Thursday September 28:

You may have noticed a police presence at the school this morning.

We contacted police after receiving an unconfirmed threat to the school. As a result and on the advice of police as a precautionary measure, we are beginning our day in a Hold and Secure procedure.

Students were brought into the building at entry time and exterior doors will be locked while police investigate. All students and staff currently at the school are safe. We will provide updates as we receive more information.

After receiving this message I immediately called the school and the TDSB. I wanted to know when the threat was made and any more info. Staff at both were comforting and reassuring, but I wasn’t immediately at ease until reaching out to friends and family for their thoughts. I think this message should have offered an explanation of hold and secure vs. lockdown, something as simple as linking to the TDSB explanation as I have above, because I personally did not understand what it meant.

At 11:21 I received this from the same list:

Police have completed a search at our school, finding nothing of concern, but a precautionary hold and secure procedure remains in place as they continue to investigate. Students were kept indoors for morning recess. Our plan for the coming lunch period is to have an indoor lunch for those who usually remain at the school. Students will not be released for lunch recess unless police advise that the hold and secure can be lifted. For students who usually go home for lunch, they will only be released to parents, and police will oversee that release at the main doors. Otherwise, students not picked up by parents will remain at the school and supervised by staff.  For grade 7 and 8 students who normally have permission to leave the grounds for lunch, they will remain at the school unless picked up by parents. All students at the school remain safe and supervised. The Terry Fox Run scheduled for this afternoon is postponed.

We apologize for any inconvenience. Further updates will follow.

Just after 2 this came from the same list, signed by the principal:

Dear parents/guardians,

As most of you know, we began our day this morning in a hold and secure situation. This procedure involved locking all exterior doors to our building and keeping students and staff indoors while police investigated a threat to the school. Classes carried on as usual inside.

We remained indoors for morning recess. Police found nothing of concern after a search of the school was completed just before the lunch period started. However, as a precaution, we remained in a hold and secure during lunch. Students were released only if parents arrived to pick them up. Otherwise, they remained at the school, safely supervised by staff. The hold and secure was maintained through the afternoon. At the end of the day, teachers will dismiss students class by class via the main doors and exit 12 at Woodfield Road.

While police did not find anything of concern at the school, they are continuing to investigate. As a result, we are being advised that it is possible that we may begin the day tomorrow in the same situation. We will provide updates as needed later tonight or in the morning via email to parents, and through our web site: http://schools.tdsb.on.ca/dukeconnaught.

Please note that International Languages classes, the “Read Up Program,” and the Open House in Room 26 scheduled for this evening are all cancelled. The Terry Fox Run that was scheduled for this afternoon has been postponed until further notice.  Cross country will be rescheduled for another meet time and date.

I would like to thank police and Board security for their prompt response and thorough work on this. We will continue to assist officers with their investigation in any way that we are able. Police and Board security will be on site tomorrow as well.

I also want to commend our students and staff for their co-operation. We practice these kinds of procedures hoping never to have to use them, but always prepared to do so if necessary. As you know, the well-being of students is a top priority at our school. Be assured that we will continue to take every precaution to ensure the safety of students and staff.

Finally, thanks to parents as well for your understanding and support. I know this situation may create some anxiety, but I hope that it is reassuring for all of you to know that staff know exactly what to do to keep us all safe.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the school.  However do keep in mind that, because this is a police matter, there may be details that we cannot share.

This morning the kidlet and I were stopped by a few TV and radio stations for comment. When asked how I felt I answered that I trust the school staff when they say they believe that everyone is safe. Which I do, there may be a lot of things I don’t agree with in the school system, but I need to have faith that the people who care for our kids for a large portion of every weekday are able to keep them safe. When I was asked how I feel that someone has been arrested in regards to the threat, I was caught off guard. I said something about everyone is an expert at their own job, the kiddo was asked for comment, and we were on our way. I saw a TDSB rep and police by the front door and asked them about someone being in custody, the police didn’t say anything, and the rep told me the media has false information. Well, later reports, by both media and police said this information was not false, but OK. On my way out I overheard detectives asking a teacher if they recognized the handwriting of a letter. I asked them for more info, and they assured me that everyone is safe.

Listen, let’s be honest, with all the media attention and the fact that the school is in a ‘nice neighbourhood’ I knew the situation was being handled with a lot of care. I stayed until the students were all inside, I pet a dog, and took solace from the fat that the kiddo had a phone with her (and it turns out she was not the only one). We have been texting all day, I took her out for lunch, and she actually wanted to go back to school because they have been watching TV and having dance parties.

Unrelated power outage

To add to today’s drama, the power in the area went out. While we were walking from the bus stop to the school, we saw that a power line had fallen. The power went out, detours were made. CP24 spoke with TDSB spokesperson Shari Schwartz-Maltz this morning, “Normally there’s about 900 kids who come to this school, so it’s a pretty big school. The last time I checked there were 160 … Steadily we’re seeing throughout the day as news filters out – we’ve had some problems with the power and the hold and secure is maintained – so parents have been picking up their kids.”

Privileges behind not sending your child to school

I sent the kidlet to school for a few reasons, one of them being that daycare subsidy only allows a certain amount of ‘away’ days and another being I wanted the lil one to know that things were safe and that she had nothing to be scared about- I know in her case keeping her home would only cause anxiety for her. I think it is important to point out that although this situation sounds scary, it was a lot of precautions and little danger. Some parents are unable to keep their kids from school; they may not be able to take the time off work, they may need to follow subsidy guidelines/CAS guidelines/are heavily monitored by other state services. Judgement being made on these parents may be based on deeply held prejudices around race and class, and should be unpacked.

So, that is what I know. I also want to send love to families who may feel threatened by police presence, and to reiterate that your feelings are valid.

**Update: This was received via the list after I posted:

September 29, 2017

Hold and secure update

Dear parents/guardians,

In consultation with police, the hold and secure procedure at our school was lifted at the conclusion of the day today and students were dismissed as usual. Police are continuing to investigate the threat that resulted in the hold and secure at our school both yesterday and today. They will remain on site here at the school until 6 pm this evening. If it is necessary, there may be a police presence next week as well, however we don’t anticipate that a hold and secure will be required.

I would like to thank officers for their assistance again today. Our staff will continue to help police with their investigation. I want to also thank our students, staff, and parents for the way they have managed the past two days. This was obviously not how we expected our days might unfold, but I am extremely proud of the way our community came together to deal with the situation.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the school. Again, do keep in mind that, because this is a police matter, there may be details that we are unable to share or that we do not know.

Sincerely,
B. O’Brien**

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