ECISD seeking help to figure out PHS situation - Odessa American: News

ECISD seeking help to figure out PHS situation

Odessa American oanews@oaoa.com | Posted: Thursday, October 10, 2019 1:31 pm

The Ector County ISD Police are seeking help to figure out what led to Permian High School going into lockdown and evacuation mode Thursday.

District Communications Officer Mike Adkins said in the early afternoon that officers were almost finished clearing the high school, located at 1800 E. 42nd St. Adkins said they did have some classrooms that went into lockdown, so officers were walking the halls going from classroom to classroom to assess safety.

Students with information should call 456-9999.

Hundreds of teens were up and down 42nd street as many said they scattered and ran from the school when someone either yelled gun or pulled the fire alarm at the school.

This incident follows on the heels of a Snapchat threat, two others Wednesday and the recent mass and serial shootings in the community. It also is rivalry week when PHS and OHS meet for their annual Friday night football game.

Ector County ISD police on Wednesday morning arrested a ninth-grade student at Permian for having a handgun in his backpack.

A Crime Stoppers tip led to the discovery and the arrest. The student is charged with places weapons prohibited, a third-degree felony, a news release stated.

Also, with the class at recess, a teacher at Edward K. Downing Elementary, 1480 N. Knox Ave., heard what she believed to be gunshots in the vicinity of the school.

The staff responded immediately by moving all of the students inside and placing the school in a lockout, news release said.

In a tweet regarding the incident Thursday at Permian, Adkins said he wanted to emphasize that there was no active shooter and the campus was safe.

There was a report that a student had a gun and officers were investigating that and they were asking students to contact them right away if they saw anything, a Twitter post said.

During the morning, the tweet said, a fire alarm was pulled causing some students to run from the school. Others followed the evacuation procedures. There were some classrooms that went into lockdown. The situation was very confused.

Principal Danny Gex sent voicemails to parents updating them on the situation. The first said all the students were safe and located on the football field. Multiple emergency agencies were on campus.

The next said all students and staff were still safe and were moved to the indoor football facility. Nurses were going around to make sure that any staff and students that had any needs were addressed and water was being delivered to those areas.

Gex said he would let parents know when students would be allowed to return to class and resume the rest of the day.

Despite the messages, parents picked up their students and traffic was tied up all around PHS. Students made their way out into the shopping center near Permian and some students were sent to a nearby park.

Ninth-grader Aryssa Sierra said she heard someone was “shooting around,” but no one was shot.

She said she heard that two girls got in a fight. One started losing and she pulled out a gun.

“Then, I’m heading out. I’m going to lunch and I see a teacher she’s like I need an administrator. I normally thought it was a fight, so I was still trying to go to lunch so she turns around and she’s like everybody run. So everybody just starts running back outside. We start going outside and kids are falling; kids are getting trampled. I’m trying to not fall. I’m trying not to get hurt or anything. What’s going through my mind at that point is where’s my mom? I need to call my mom. Is my sister alright? Are my friends OK? I’m just trying to get out …,” Sierra said.

Junior Serena Guzman said there were different stories going around.

“There’s one story saying that there was a fight and that someone in the middle of the fight pulled out a gun and someone rung the fire alarm and then there’s something else saying that they did ring it and said that there was a shooting and there wasn’t really. So there’s like different stories to it. There’s another one they’re saying they did hear shootings when they evacuated us and everybody started running,” Guzman said. “After that, they put us all over here so really nobody knows what’s happening and no one really knows if there is a shooter.”

Guzman was in the shopping center near the high school on 42nd Street.

Freshman Carlos Labastida said there were “just stories left and right.”

“So we don’t really know the full story,” Guzman said. “All the teachers told us to get out, call our parents but also telling us to go to the football field.”

Labastida said he didn’t think it was safe to go the football field, so they were going to have their parents pick them up.

“It’s just too much. I don’t think it’s safe to go back,” Labastida said. “That’s why we’re just calling our parents to come pick us up. Everybody mostly is calling their parents and going home and I think that’s better for everyone.”

Adkins said there are evacuation plans, but people are supposed to go different places depending on where they are on campus. Not all the students and faculty are going to go to the same location.

“You can’t get all of the students and all of the faculty in one place and evacuate. They use different exits depending on where they are,” Adkins said.

He added that he understood why students left and parents picked them up.

“… The community itself has been through a big trauma; a very big trauma — actually two. So yes, everybody’s on edge … These are things that we do have to work through as a community together. We’ve been through a massive trauma and everybody’s nervous. And again, that’s understandable,” Adkins said.

Extra officers will be at school Friday, as will counselors who are ready to talk with students or family members, a news release issued late Thursday said.

"We want to encourage all families to make time to talk about these things. If you notice a change in your child's behavior call a counselor, teacher or principal," the release said. "We want parents and students to feel their schools are safe places to learn and grow. We are committed to that. Together we will get through these difficult days and be stronger."