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Schools locks doors: Roosevelt/Middle School 'Code Yellow' was no drill

If you have children in the Roosevelt Elementary or Detroit Lakes Middle Schools, you might have heard a little something about a 'Code Yellow' being called Wednesday.

According to Police Chief Tim Eggebraaten, that's because officers got a report of a man acting erratically at an apartment complex near the Middle School.

According to complaints, he was knocking on doors and pounding on the outside of the building.

"And when our officers got to the apartment, he wasn't there, so we decided since the school was right there, we'd give them a heads up," said Eggebraaten.

Officers first alerted Middle School Principal Mike Suckert at around 3 p.m., who then called a Code Yellow and Roosevelt Principal Renee Kerzman.

"We did a PA announcement that it's a Code Yellow and that teachers need to secure the doors and keep the kids in the classroom and continue teaching as normal," said Kerzman, who said they also kept parents out of the building who were there to pick up their children after school.

"Since we didn't know who all the parents were, it was my decision to just keep them in the cars," said Kerzman, "otherwise we would have had so many people coming into the building."

A half hour later, school officials let school out just a few minutes later than normal in what Kerzman calls a very calm manner.

"A couple of the little kids might have been (rattled) because it was different," said Kerzman, "Usually we'll say this is a drill, but this time it wasn't a drill, and it was a little bit longer than what they were used to."

Police were able to locate the suspicious man later that evening, taking him to Essentia St. Mary's Hospital for a mental health evaluation.

No criminal charges were files, but Eggebraaten says they don't like to take chances with the schools when it comes to erratic behavior.

"This individual was known to us, but he's only recently been on our radar, so we didn't know for sure what we'd be dealing with," said Eggebraaten, "and for all we knew he could walk into the school and there'd potentially be problems."

Suckert says because the state requires schools to practice Code Yellows five times a year, students and faculty are pretty comfortable with the procedures.

Although he says it's been a few years since they've had to call a Code Yellow for this type of a situation, he says they are also called in cases of medical emergencies.

"So suppose a student had a seizure and we had to bring the medics in," said Suckert, "we would call a Code Yellow just to have our halls secured and get the kids so that we know where they're at and keep the milling around to a minimum."

Suckert says while Code Yellows are not without precedent and practice in the Detroit Lakes schools, Code Reds are.

"We don't practice those," said Suckert, "because it essentially means we have lost control of our building. That means we have to call the police and the circumstance that our building is in is beyond our capabilities."

Suckert says all students are informed about what a Code Red is, but because calling one means the school administrator is no longer in control, the police are the only ones who can un-secure a building.

"Teachers would lock their rooms, turn off the lights and wouldn't come out until police officers, who will have keys, go through room by room," said Suckert, "and that is an absolute worst-case scenario."

Suckert says school officials work very closely with the police department, reviewing protocols regularly so that the schools and the police stay on the same page.

"It's really comforting knowing that when the officers are out there dealing with things, they're keeping us in mind," said Suckert, "that's a good feeling."