Berkshire Elementary School lockdown, confusion spark worst fears in parents

Published: Aug. 16, 2022 at 5:00 PM EDT
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It started with law enforcement activity near a Palm Beach County elementary school, then quickly turned into moments of chaos and confusion for parents.

Berkshire Elementary School, located at 1060 South Kirk Road, went on code red lockdown around 2 p.m. Monday as parents were arriving to pick up their kids.

Lockdowns at schools are not all that uncommon, but parents said this one felt different.

It happened at dismissal as parents were waiting for their kids, with thoughts of recent school shootings plaguing their minds.

"I just heard a parent say, they’re shooting. And everybody just rushed in and tried to grab their kids," said parent Darrell Wright. "Because of what happened with Texas and everything else, we want to make sure our kids are straight."

Wright told WFLX moments after reuniting with his son that he wasn’t taking any chances.

"Parents jumped the fence, rushing through to get their kids," Wright said. "We’re gonna protect our kids. We’re not going to wait for someone to do it for us."

There was no shooting at the school and students and staff were never in danger, according to the School District of Palm Beach County.

But rumors spread of a shooting, and the thought of it was enough to send parents into panic mode.

"They called my son’s name to come to me and the lady pulled him back in line and was like, no, get back in the building," said parent Alexis Heine. "So we had to ask, what’s going on? And they didn’t tell us anything."

"Not knowing anything is what was really terrifying," parent Marissa Haser added. "And then being told conflicting information and not knowing if it was accurate or not was not helping."

"I got scared," said parent Yeimar Irizacarry. "One thing that happened over there in the other states, like I said, we didn't know what was going on."

Many parents told WFLX the first thing on their minds was the May 24 deadly mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where law enforcement later admitted that officers should have entered classrooms sooner.

"I can’t say that not one parent had that running through their mind," Haser said.

"What we’re having as parents is, even if we did not have children who were directly involved in a shooting, we are responding in a way that is in some ways a PTSD response," said Dr. Samantha Saltz, a board-certified child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist in Palm Beach County

Saltz said many parents are being triggered by the world around us with a fight or flight response.

"Mama bear, papa bear kicks in. I'm going to do everything I possibly can to protect my child and our children," Saltz said. "And ultimately at the same time, we also need to remember that these situations are incredibly dangerous."

Saltz added that the key here is to avoid generalizing that just because something happened in one place, doesn't mean it will happen again.

Berkshire Elementary School was on lockdown for a total of 11 minutes, according to authorities.

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