A hidden-camera TV news story on security at St. Louis schools led to a lockdown Thursday at Kirkwood High and complaints from angry parents.
A KSDK-TV reporter visited four elementary schools and the St. Louis County high school for the report on school safety. The station showed on its Thursday night broadcast how its staff member could not enter four schools unimpeded, but walked right into Kirkwood High School, where the door was not locked.
The KSDK reporter initially gave his name and cellphone number to office personnel, and when the Kirkwood High secretary left to get the school resource officer, the man left the office, said Kirkwood School District spokeswoman Ginger Cayce. Administrators became alarmed when he asked the location of a restroom and left the office, but went a different direction, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
He didn't answer when they called his cellphone, but his voicemail said he was a KSDK reporter. Cayce said she tried three times to confirm he was actually with KSDK, but didn't have any success.
"I told them 'I'm going to have to go into lockdown if you can't confirm that this was a test,'" she said. "When we couldn't confirm or deny it, we had no choice."
The school went into lockdown, leaving Kirkwood students and teachers in classrooms with the lights off for about 40 minutes.
KSDK broadcast a statement later Thursday standing by its reporting.
"This lockdown certainly was not the intent of our visit," KSDK said in the statement, pointing out that the lockdown didn't happen for an hour until after the reporter left. The station says the reporter "identified himself by name" to school officials. However, KSDK didn't claim that he identified himself as a reporter.
Cayce said the incident highlighted problems in security, but said "we are still dismayed that a call was not given after to let us know this was a test."
Some parents said that while they did not like the disruption, they were more concerned about possible security lapses.
Stacey Woodruff said she was in tears when she heard about the lockdown, and spent the duration on her cellphone with her 14-year-old daughter.
"She kept saying, 'Mom, I'm OK,'" Woodruff said. "When I found out it was KSDK, I was and still am livid."