Parents of Volunteer High students describe terror in wake of active shooter ‘hoax’

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HAWKINS COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Parents of Volunteer High School students found out Tuesday morning in a panic that there was an ongoing emergency at the school, which prompted a lockdown.

“There was about an hour nobody knew what was going on,” said parent Chris Pritchard.

“I’m just thankful that the kids are OK, the staff,” said parent Michelle Williams. “This is where I graduated too, so it’s hard to see this happen.”

Authorities say they received a call shortly before 8 a.m. from a person claiming to be inside the school threatening to use a handgun. Police from multiple surrounding agencies responded immediately to the school.

VHS students were evacuated to the National Guard Armory in Mount Carmel, where parents had to come to pick up their kids and sign them out.

“Just terrified. Trying to get a hold of him,” said parent Kris Kincer. “Find out what was going on. Make sure he was OK.”

After initial reports of an active shooter, parents thought this was a much different situation.

“I was terrified because he is a new student. He doesn’t know the safe places to go in the school,” Rhonda Lawson said.

Rhonda’s son, Donovan Lawson, described the inside of the school during the incident.

“They started boarding the doors with tables from the theatre, and we knew it was serious,” Donovan said.

Rhonda’s other child, Madison Lawson, said she was first alerted to the situation by a police officer who ran into the school’s gym.

“A police officer ran through the gym with a gun, and I realized this is real,” Madison said.

An active shooter was never found on-campus. Police say after an extensive search of the schools, this appears to be a hoax.

Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson said there is no evidence after two searches to indicate that a shooter was ever inside Volunteer High or that any shots were fired.

Lawson and Hawkins County Director of Schools Matt Hixson said one student did have a seizure at the time of the incident and was transported to the hospital.

Classes will resume Wednesday morning at VHS with increased law enforcement present, according to Hixson. He said in a statement that counselors from both the school district and other agencies will be at the school to assist.

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