Ruder Elementary School in Columbia Falls underwent a “soft lockdown” from approximately 2:15 p.m. until school let out at 3:25 p.m. without incident on Tuesday, according to Columbia Falls School District Superintendent Steve Bradshaw.
The lockdown followed a report that a photograph of a man holding a gun was allegedly sent to someone with a message through Snap Chat stating he lived by Ruder Elementary and that they could settle their disagreement in the parking lot, according to Bradshaw.
Bradshaw said neither the sender nor the recipient of the photo were students and it was reported by someone living out of the state.
Columbia Falls Police Department Sgt. Sean Murphy said investigating officers believe they have identified the suspect who sent the Snap Chat message. The investigation is ongoing.
During the lockdown, students remained in their classrooms as the school day continued. Police patrolled the building until dismissal and students were safely on buses, Bradshaw said.
“We try not to scare kids,” Bradshaw said. He noted that no one was on the playground at the time, but he did accompany a class from the gym, which is located in a separate building, back to the main school building.
The district alerted families to the situation through automated messages after school let out. Bradshaw said the decision on when to alert families is done on a case-by-case basis. In this instance, Bradshaw said there were concerns that alerting families earlier would create a larger issue for police and people’s personal safety if too many people congregated in the parking lot.
“We felt there was more danger in alerting parents too early in case someone did show up in the parking lot with a gun,” Bradshaw said.
Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.