Shelter-in-place initiated in response to domestic incident

Shelter-in-place initiated in response to domestic incident

Junior Justin Sung was walking down the hallways after orchestra. He entered the cafeteria and sat down. Because he was unable to hear the intercom over the noisy lunch room, he got a particularly loud announcement of the shelter in place on Thursday, Sept. 19.

“A teacher screamed at us to get into Student Services,” Sung said. “They told everyone to be quiet and sit down.”

“At first I thought it was a drill, but then [a teacher] said it wasn’t,” he said. “That’s when I started to panic.”

Sung ate his lunch in what he described as a dark, crowded corner of Student Services. Sung said he was afraid that there was an intruder in the building. After about twenty minutes, Principal Spence Evans announced that no danger existed to the students and a domestic dispute was occurring outside the school. According to Evans, two students were having an “altercation with their mom.” The mother of the students had called the police in concern of their safety at the school.

“We were able to get the two students in the building and the parent sped off, and at that point we did not know whether she would be coming back or not,” Evans said.

One reason the shelter in place lasted so long, said Evans, was that all students had to be secured within the building, including the marching band which was on the field. Evans emphasized that early rumors of an assault on a police officer were “completely false” and nobody was hurt. Evans said that the Ames Police Department had recommended the shelter in place.

“We are supposed to get the kids out of the hall, lock our door–we can keep our lights on but we close the blinds,” English teacher James Webb said. “We keep the kids in the classroom until they announce it’s time to leave.”

Shelter in Place


  • Activated to keep an issue outside of the building

  • Class continues, lights kept on shutters closed, doors locked

  • Usually activated to prevent class disruption

  • Activated when an issue is inside the school

  • Class stops, doors are locked, shutters are closed and lights are shut off, total silence required

  • Usually activated to protect students

When the shelter in place started, English teacher Joe Brekke was conducting his class as usual. He was considering the possibility of a shooting.

“I was thinking of the Navy shipyard [in Washington],” Brekke said.

A shelter in place, while less strict than a lockdown, still requires students to stay in the classroom until the administration says it’s safe to move freely. Students weren’t allowed to use the bathroom, which led to serious issues during the shelter in place. One student was penalized with two detentions for going to get a drink of water.  Some students, such as junior Martin Chamberlin, viewed the shelter in place as unnecessary altogether.

“I think it was an overreaction,” he said.

Chamberlin said he thought the problem “could have been solved much more simply.”

Other students agreed with the decision to shelter in place.

“I think it was good to take the precaution,” said Senior Phoebe Abel. “I think the school did a good job keeping everyone safe.”

Abel said that she was in a good place in the school, and that if she were in danger that she would have been safe. Some parts of the school, including Student Services, followed lockdown procedures such as turning off lights and silencing the classroom. While there was some confusion and angst among students, Principal Evans said the shelter in place was needed and that the school wasn’t going to deny a request from the police.

“I always like to err on the side of caution,” Evans said.

Evans said another reason the shelter in place lasted so long was because the school wanted to be certain the mother wasn’t going to return. There was no intruder in the building, though confusion in social media did scare some students.

“I don’t regret the decision to go into shelter in place,” Evans said. “We’re always going to be safe rather than sorry.”