(KMOV)—Kirkwood High School was put on lockdown Thursday afternoon after a local news station employee walked into the building in an attempt to test the school’s security protocol, according to a school official.
The lockdown was enacted after an unidentified subject walked into the school’s office shortly before noon.
According to a statement released by Kirkwood School District officials, an unknown male came into the school office and asked to speak to the school resource officer . The officer wasn't available so the man gave his name and number and asked to use the restroom.
The secretary directed him to the restroom, but the man walked down the hall and turned into a different hallway.The secretary became concerned the bathroom visit was a ruse to access the building and she immediately called security.
The SRO attempted to call the man to confirm that he had left the campus, but didn't receive an answer. The man's voicemail stated that he was a KSDK NewsChannel 5 reporter.
The district's chief communications officer, Ginger Cayce, made several calls to the KSDK newsdesk to confirm the unknown man was a reporter.
According to the district's statement, "the news desk wouldn't confirm or deny that it was a Ch. 5 reporter. Ms. Cayce told the news desk that we would have to go into lockdown if we couldn't get this confirmed. When it couldn't be confirmed, we had to go into lockdown."
Students were huddled in locked classrooms with the lights off for about 40 minutes.
During the lockdown, a student named Ben said he sat in a dark classroom sending text messages to his parents. The one to his mom read, “"We have an intruder, do not know what is going on, if anything happens I love you mama.”
The lockdown was officially lifted at 2 p.m., according to a post on the school district’s Facebook page.
Jack Plummer, Chief of Police in Kirkwood, identified the employee as being John Kelley from KSDK.
In a statement released by KSDK, the station said, "....One of our employees assigned to this investigative report visited Kirkwood High School. He entered and made his way to the school office, asking a teacher for directions after a few minutes.
There he asked if he might discuss the school's security. He identified himself by name and gave the office his phone number. When the security official could not be reached, our employee left the premises without escort. Approximately an hour later, after our visit - the High School was put on lock down. This lock down certainly was not the intent of our visit"
Chief Plummer said the proper way to do a report on school security would be to work with police and with a few school administrators to coordinate a similar test, all with the knowledge of law enforcement and educators.
Kirkwood Superindendent, Tom Willaims said,"We believe Ch. 5 should have notified the school office immediately after the “test” was completed. This would have helped our school improve security measures without going to the extreme measure of a lockdown and the panic and disruption it caused.
We will take this opportunity to review our safety measures and protocols and make changes where necessary."
Kirkwood High School appears to have been one of five districts the employee entered on Thursday to ask about about security. Officials at a several other districts reported a similar visit to their schools on Thursday.
Kathy Kelly with Parkway School District said a man was buzzed into the office at Bellerive Elementary School and asked to speak with the person in charge of security. The school's principal overheard his request and came to the office. He began asking the man if he was a parent or how he was affiliated with the district.
The principal then asked if he was a reporter, to which the man said yes and left.
A spokesperson with Francis Howell School District said an unidentified man also approached an elementary school in the district, pressed a buzzer, did not say his name but wanted to set up an appointment with an administrator about school safety.
That person was let in the building where additional questions were asked about the meeting he wanted to have with an administrator. District officials said he was very evasive, he denied he was a reporter twice, then he said “I am photographer with Channel 5.”
A letter is also being sent home to the families of those students.
The Francis Howell official said they called NewsChannel 5 and received confirmation that the unknown man was from their station.
Stay with News 4 and KMOV.com for the latest on this developing story.