Parents wrongly told their child’s school was in lockdown. Wake blames ‘human error.’

The Wake County school system is apologizing for an error that led to families at the wrong school being notified that the campus was on a Code Red lockdown.

Apex High School was placed briefly on a lockdown Monday morning because of what turned out to be a hoax threat. But instead of notifying Apex High families that the campus was on Code Red, the district sent an alert instead to Apex Friendship High School families that their school was locked down.

In a Code Red, no one is allowed to enter or leave the campus until law enforcement gives an all-clear message. Students stay in their classroom until the lockdown is lifted.

“We apologize for any distress this error may have caused,” Wake said in a statement Wednesday. “While expediency of communications is a priority in emergency situations, mistakes like this should never occur. We are reviewing our processes to ensure this will not happen again.”

April Fool’s hoax threats

On Monday, multiple phone calls across North Carolina claimed active shooters were attacking different schools, according to documents uncovered by ABC News.

The bulletin from the North Carolina Information Sharing and Analysis Center said all the calls were determined to be April Fools’ hoaxes, according to ABC11, the News & Observer’s newsgathering partner.

Apex High school students change classes between its five main buildings and several detached modular classrooms on Jan. 28, 2016.
Apex High school students change classes between its five main buildings and several detached modular classrooms on Jan. 28, 2016.

“Monday morning, Apex High School went into a Code Red lockdown due to a potential threat,” Wake said in its statement. “While the Apex High School website was updated with this information in real time, the message regarding the lockdown was mistakenly sent via text and voice call to Apex Friendship High families.

“This was a human error and not a result of a problem with our messaging system.”

As soon as the communications team was alerted of the error, Apex Friendship High Principal Brian Pittman sent a message to families that the school wasn’t on a lockdown. He also made a schoolwide announcement to students telling them what had happened so they could text their parents to let them know everything was ok.

No message until Code Red lifted

Wake says that the Code Red was lifted at Apex High as the district was in the process of sending a Code Red message via email and text to Apex High families.

“As a result, that message was quickly revised to include information regarding changes to the student checkout process for those parents who chose to pick up their students,” Wake said in the statement.

Tracy Taylor, an Apex High parent, complained during Tuesday’s school board meeting that parents didn’t know about the Code Red until they got messages from their children.

“Imagine as a parent at 9:02 yesterday morning getting a text from your daughter that says ‘There’s a Code Red on campus. If anything happens to me, I love you both very much,’” Taylor said during public comment. “Imagine as a parent never getting the Code Red alert from Wake County Public School System.”

Taylor said the district needs to answer for not alerting Apex High families during the Code Red and for scaring the Apex Friendship High families.

“This created confusion amongst 5,200 families that led to multiple calls to multiple schools ...” Taylor said. “Fix the problem within Wake County’s Central Office.”