False rumors of robbery send school into lockdown

CALCUTTA – After reports of an armed robbery began to surface Wednesday, Calcutta Elementary went into a “soft lockdown,” but St. Clair Township police said the reports were false.

Township Detective Brian McKenzie said a call went out from Hancock County about a man driving a red car who had been involved in an incident there who might be headed toward a residence off St. Clair Avenue.

According to other police sources, the man may have been involved in a home invasion in Hancock County in which a knife was used.

East Liverpool officers were waiting for the man, but he never appeared in the city, according to detectives there.

Nonetheless, “someone got information skewed as an armed robbery near Calcutta School,” McKenzie said, adding, “There was no armed robbery anywhere near the school. Nothing like that even remotely happened. Had there been any dangerous situation at all, we would have notified the school ourselves.”

McKenzie said he learned, however, that the school “followed its protocol after it got a call.” He was unable to say who called the school with the false information.

Reportedly, the false information began circulating on Facebook, prompting calls to not only McKenzie but the city police department.

Superintendent Kent Polen was out of the district at a meeting and received a call informing him Calcutta had been placed in a soft lockdown, and he said yesterday afternoon he was uncertain who called the school and raised the initial alarm causing the lockdown.

A soft lockdown entails normal teaching and other activities continuing but students not being allowed outside, according to Polen, who said the school was locked down for about 30 minutes until McKenzie arrived and assured school officials there had been no situation endangering students or staff members.

“Better safe than sorry,” Polen said about the staff’s actions.