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HMS locked down again

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news Hastings, 55033
Hastings Star Gazette
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Hastings Minnesota 745 Spiral Boulevard 55033

An unruly student prompted Hastings Middle School to be locked down for nine minutes Thursday, June 10.

The student eventually surrendered to police and was taken away by Hastings police officers. The student could face charges from the incident, but as of Wednesday morning had not been charged yet.

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The incident began just after 9:30 a.m. Thursday. By 9:45 a.m., the school was in a lockdown and by 10 a.m. it was all over.

Hastings Middle School principal Mark Zuzek said the student was "unruly and non compliant." The student is enrolled in a program for at-risk students. The program is conducted at the middle school.

When the student's teachers couldn't get the student to calm down, they asked for administrative support. Zuzek responded and approached the student in the classroom.

"I had asked them to come to the office, and they didn't want to come in," Zuzek said. "Then we moved the other students from that program to another area."

Negotiations then began between Zuzek, the program's staff members and the student.

"We could tell they were escalating despite our best efforts to keep them calm," Zuzek said. "They had quite a head of steam, and I could tell that they were feeling somewhat caged in that classroom. I knew it would be a challenge to detain them in the classroom.

"We alerted 911 and asked for support in restraining the student. At that time, more really to decrease the disruption to other classes than to guarantee everybody's safety, I called a lockdown."

The lockdown prompted all classroom doors to be locked. Lights were turned off in those classrooms and students all gathered in a designated area within the classroom.

Meanwhile, Zuzek and the student continued talking. The student left the classroom and began walking around the building. The student heard the approaching law enforcement sirens and asked "are those for me?"

Zuzek confirmed they were and told the student things would go a lot better if they were waiting for the officers at the front door. The student agreed, and by the time officers pulled up on the scene, Zuzek and the student were at the main doors.

Zuzek thanked the officers who responded to the incident.

"The law enforcement response was extremely prompt," he said.

Nobody was injured and no weapons were involved.

"The decision to go into a lockdown was more about making sure that this non-compliant student didn't have a forum for their display of anger and aggression than it was about safety," he said. "Frankly, the student was volatile. They were unpredictable. I really wasn't sure what they would do."

It was the last full day of school for the year, and the majority of eighth-grade students at the school were away on a field trip to Valleyfair.

Two at-risk programs for students ranging in age from 12 to 18 are held at the middle school, but beginning in the fall of 2011 that will no longer be the case. The programs will be held at other locations within the district.

A long nine minutes

It was the second time the middle school was locked down this year. The first time came April 5 when a student brought a loaded handgun into the building, prompting a 1-hour and 40-minute lockdown.

"There were both staff and students that were affected emotionally because of this lockdown," Zuzek said. "This was a big deal. It was strange to me that even kids who were out at Valleyfair were impacted by it. They had heard via their friends about what was happening. We had eighth-graders at Valleyfair in line for the Corkscrew who heard about this and it triggered something in them."

Zuzek quickly sent out an e-mail to staff members to let them know the situation had been resolved, and he let them know what had transpired.

"We wanted teachers to share that information with students immediately following the lockdown," Zuzek said. "Hopefully that helped to calm them."

Things quickly got back to normal at the school, Zuzek said.

"Everything just kept moving on," Zuzek said. "They all kept learning math. They showed up for their baseball games and their practices. Everything else moves on in a normal state of business. This stuff, seemingly it would knock us off our tracks, but getting back to normal as quickly as possible is what is best for the kids, research tells us."

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Chad Richardson
Chad Richardson is the publisher and editor at the Hastings Star Gazette. He was the general manager of the Farmington Independent and Rosemount Town Pages from 2000 to 2007. He previously worked at the Star Gazette from 1996 to 2000 as a photographer and reporter. He also worked as a photographer and writer at the Pope County Tribune in Glenwood.
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