JCPS, Catholic schools to operate on 'Heightened Security Alert' - WDRB 41 Louisville News

JCPS, Catholic schools to operate on 'Heightened Security Alert' Friday

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- All Jefferson County Public Schools will operate on "Heightened Security Alert" tomorrow, Friday, Jan. 8, because of a threat according to a message sent by JCPS Superintendent Dr. Donna Hargens.

Catholic schools, which were also included in the threat, will also operate on "heightened awareness and vigilance."

During a press conference Thursday afternoon, Dr. Michael Raisor, JCPS Director of Operations, said the threat had been received through the Louisville Metro Police tip line. He declined to elaborate further on the nature of the threat, but said that schools would be on Heightened Security Alert, meaning that security would be increased at the doors, and movement would be reduced -- both in school hallways and just outside the schools.

Click HERE to watch the entire press conference.

When asked whether he felt the schools were overreacting, Dr. Raisor's answer was to the point.

"No," he said. "I don’t think you could ever overreact when it comes to the safety of students."

That said, he said the decision of whether to send a child to school tomorrow rests solidly with the child's parents.

"It's always a parent's decision to send their child to school or not," he said. "This was not done in any event to worry people. It was done to make people aware."

As for whether student absences would be excused tomorrow, Dr. Raisor said that decision would ultimately rest with the principals of individual schools.

Raisor said he did not know whether the threat in question was made by a student, but he did have a warning for any students who might consider making such a threat as a prank. 

"Don’t think that this is an easy way to get out of school," he said. "Making a threat like this is terroristic threatening…which is something that could very well ruin your life."

"This is not a prank and shouldn’t be taken as a prank," he added. "And we and law enforcement have to respond to it as if it were a real situation every time."

The text of the message sent from JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens to JCPS principals is listed below: 

Principals,

Please print the notice below and send a copy home with all students today; if you use the One Call Now system, you may choose to distribute the message that way as well.  As noted below, given the nature of the information we have, JCPS will operate school as normal tomorrow (including after school activities), but on a heightened security level. 

Out of an abundance of caution, we are notifying you that LMPD has received a nonspecific threat for Friday, Jan. 8, against unnamed schools – the report didn’t specify whether the schools were public or private. This appears to be another in a series of threats being reported to educational institutions across the country recently. JCPS safety protocol dictates that we operate all schools on a normal schedule but at a heightened level of security (Level 3).  Therefore, exterior doors to your child’s school will be locked at all times, outside activities will be cancelled and hallway traffic will minimized and monitored on Friday.  If there is any reason to believe that additional security measures should be taken, we will notify you through our One Call Now system and through local media.  Please be assured that, at JCPS, safety is our highest priority and that our schools work closely with our internal security team and state and federal security experts to ensure your students’ well-being every day, including on Friday.

According to a statement by Louisville Metro Police spokeswoman Alicia Smiley, LMPD received the "vague, anonymous threat" on Wednesday.

"Yesterday afternoon, LMPD received a vague, anonymous threat against unspecified educational institutions for January 8, 2016," Smiley wrote. "We have shared this information with our federal partners to assist us in the investigation, but at this point we have not received any further credible information to support this threat. While the threat was unclear whether these are institutions located in Louisville, we are notifying area schools and colleges. This case remains under investigation and should additional details be made available, you will be notified."

Catholic schools were included in the threat as well. Leisa Schulz, Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of Louisville, sent the following message to principals Thursday afternoon: 

Louisville Metro Police received a general, non-specific threat against schools in the Louisville area for Friday, January 8, 2016.  As a precaution, they notified our office as well as Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS), and other private schools in the area.  JCPS  has sent a communication to their schools asking them to be on heightened security.

I want all of you to be aware of this information. Catholic schools will operate as scheduled tomorrow. Please proceed with your security measures with heightened awareness and vigilance. If you receive or become aware of specific information, please communicate it directly to local law enforcement.

We will keep you apprised of any further information we receive.

Meanwhile, Jefferson Community and Technical College indicated that they will be operating during normal hours.

"Jefferson Community and Technical College will be open normal hours on Friday, Jan. 8," a statement from the school read. "Security will operate on heightened alert, however, in response to Louisville Metro Police Department’s report of a vague and anonymous threat made regarding area schools.  Although the threat was non-specific, JCTC is taking it seriously and is encouraging faculty, staff, students and visitors to stay alert when on campus and notify security if they see anything unusual or threatening."

Stay with WDRB News. We'll update this story as it develops.

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