Concerns Highlighted Following Active Shooter False Alarm

BRYANT, Ark. - The governor vetoed a bill that would continue funding an emergency alert panic button app for school districts across the state.

He says it's now up to individual districts to decide whether it will pay for the program.

It's the same app that triggered a false alarm Thursday (4/7), set off by a teacher in Bryant.

"This is the first time I've ever seen the active shooter alert pop up," said Sgt. Paul Tarvin, a school resource officer with Bryant Police. "Obviously I was alarmed."

The incident has highlighted concerns in the wake of the panic at Bryant High School. 

The app can be triggered as simply as a butt dial when you sit on your phone.

We had the Bryant Police Department walk us through how the app works and he had to treat the phone delicately, out of fear we'd accidentally press the big red button.

Activating it is as simple as two quick presses: one to open the app and another that would put a whole district and police force on high alert.

Panic spread inside Bryant High Thursday.

"She was kind of freaking out: be quiet, don't say anything, turn off the lights, get over there," recalled senior, Shey Cope.

As far as students, teachers and even Bryant Police knew at the time, an active shooter was at the school.

Junior, Tommy Mann said, "All we heard was it's locked down, put everything in front of the door."

Mann's class worked to barricade the door with desks and a projector.

Most classes had the same frantic scene. 

"Oh my god guys this isn't a drill," Cope shared what one student received in a text. "There's an active shooter."

In just a matter of minutes though, Sgt. Tarvin says Bryant Police determined it was a false alarm; a mistake by a teacher who triggered the school's "Rave Panic Button" app.

Sgt. Tarvin explained, "She stuck her phone in her pocket and somehow the app got open and that button got pushed."

The false alarm highlighted other concerns as well. 

A student from Mann's class got stuck in the hallway after they barricaded themselves in. 

"We ... had a knock at the door and apparently one of the other students was still out there," he said.

We're told the teacher made the decision to not let the student in but police say that was the right call.

"The person banging on the door may be the person to be worried about," Sgt. Tarvin remarked. "They have 30 kids inside the classroom. They have one kid out in the hallway; they have to weigh those choices."

Reports of students running away from the school into the surrounding neighborhood had others worried. We're told that's what they're trained to do however.

Sgt. Tarvin added, "If you can, get the heck out of there."

One element the school acknowledges needs to be improved is schoolwide messaging after the alert. We're told some classes had no idea of the panic going on around them.

"Their communication for it is what I'd say they need to work on and come up with a better plan to get students and teachers informed," Cope suggested. "I think it was more of an awakening then showing the school where there's flaws and they can work on that and make it better."

Substitute teachers for instance don't have the app and don't receive the alerts.

"We had a particular room where there was a substitute who didn't know what to do and one of the kids just took over and basically took charge because they knew what to do," Sgt. Tarvin commended the students.

School and police officials insist added safeguards to the app to prevent a pocket dial could inhibit the process. They say they're willing to risk a false alarm for the faster response times if an actual situation happens.

Overall, many say Bryant High School is now better equipped after what happened because a planned drill does not compare.

Mann added, "We were usually prepared for drills but we were not prepared for that one." 

 

NOTE: The graphics identifying the two students in the story were switched and incorrect.


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