At Around 7:15 am on December 3rd the Highland High School campus was put on lockdown due to a bomb threat earlier that morning. Students and staff who were already on campus were locked in classrooms or the cafeteria where they were to wait for further instructions. Others who were still at home or on their way to school were told to turn around and were advised to remain at home.
Those who were in the cafeteria were one of the first to see the arrival of police officers. “I saw the first police car show up and figured it was a car crash or something. It wasn’t until I saw security locking the doors that I thought something was up,” said Randy Alberts (12).
EVIT busses during transportation were also stuck on campus. EVIT student Ebelyn Hernandez (12) recalls “The bus driver had to report to the other bus drivers that they had to keep out of the area because of the threat. We had to keep circling. Usually she plays music but she turned it off and [I] could just hear all the other bus drivers discussing where to go. Students were trying to figure out if they could leave. I was balling my eyes out because [bomb threats have] happened before but this time it wasn’t just my life at risk. I now have two siblings that go to Highland and it kinda just hit me. I was keeping in touch with my sisters [who were inside of Highland High at the time].”
At 7:53 am, principal Melinda Murphy sent an email to guardians and parents about the situation that stated “Highland High School is under lockdown this morning and Gilbert PD are on site” and once again instructed students to stay home if not on campus already. During the lockdown multiple emails were sent out updating guardians on what was happening on campus.
At about 8:30 am police officers were in the cafeteria directing students into the smaller cafeteria built for staff. Later they were moved back into the main dining area where they were greeted with a bomb detection K-9 and were separated from their backpacks. Students in classrooms were forced to stay quiet while staff members were update every so often through email.
At 8:45 am police officers would start collecting classes and escorting them to the cafeteria where they would wait to be transported to Highland Jr. High in an evacuation. The first bus full of Highland students would arrive at their new location close to 10:00 am. It was only from there that parents and guardians were allowed to sign out and take their children home.
Throughout the lockdown, students and staff were faced with rumors of active shooters and multiple explosives on campus due to the overwhelming posts on social media of students attempting to understand just what was happening. “I heard that one of the portables were burning and that there were ten pipe bombs in the girls bathroom. It made [me] more scared than I already was,” said Anny Hernandez (9). Although it was hard to avoid the rumors, Joshua Lipscomb (11) encouraged students to not “listen to anything you hear unless it’s from the authorities… because that’s all you’re doing is scaring the kids inside [Highland]” on Snapchat.
Fortunately these rumors proved to be false as the Gilbert Police Department swept the buildings and campus and eventually one last email was sent informing parents and guardians that there were “no devices found on campus” and it was safe to go back on to collect belongings that were left during the evacuation.
Toll Free Hotlines:
Hawk Hotline: (480)-382-6641
Arizona Warm Line: 1-602-347-1100
Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Gilbert PD Non Emergency: (480)-503-6500