During the morning of Oct. 29, school officials placed Cosumnes Oaks High School and its next-door campus, Pinkerton Middle School, on lockdown after there was a report about a gun on the high school campus.

The Elk Grove Unified School District’s security staff as well as local enforcement officers investigated the claim and searched the Cosumnes Oaks High campus for nearly two hours while students and staff were told to remain indoors.

School officials reportedly lifted the lockdown around noon after no weapons were found.

Earlier last month, authorities received a report about a student who possibly carried a firearm at Elk Grove High School. On Oct. 7, they reportedly located the 16-year-old suspect in a classroom, escorted him outside, found a gun and ammunition in his backpack, and then took him into custody.  The student never brandished the weapon, Principal Eugene Christmas III stated in his Oct. 7 letter to parents and school staff.

“Swift and appropriate action was taken by school officials to contact law enforcement who quickly located and identified the student in question,” he wrote.  

However, unlike Cosumnes Oaks, Elk Grove High was not placed on lockdown during that gun incident.

The Citizen spoke with Sacramento County Sheriff’s Lt. Cary Trzcinski, who works with Elk Grove Unified’s security and safety staff, to explain what prompts a campus lockdown and what does not.

He said that his staff does not work with a general policy on lockdowns, but they instead determine if a lockdown is necessary based on the incident’s circumstances.

“Our job is to get there and isolate the threat,” the lieutenant said. “That does not mean there is a lockdown every time.”

He said that lockdowns are immediately prompted by threats such as an active shooter or witness reports of an armed student on campus.

Trzcinski mentioned the May 21 incident when Elk Grove High was placed on lockdown after a student was seen possessing what appeared to be a gun. Authorities arrived and soon learned that he actually held an open stapler and he was acting out a movie scene.

“Let’s say it’s not a stapler but a real gun - any time we don’t know where the suspect is, and he has a gun, we lock it down,” Trzcinski said about placing a campus on lockdown.

As for the Oct. 7 incident, he said that school officials heard from a student who claimed that a classmate kept a gun in his backpack. Trzcinski said that authorities learned the suspect’s identity and were informed that he was attending a class. Officers then took a low-key approach to contacting the suspect instead of placing the campus on lockdown.

“Is it smart to lock down the whole school and get people panicking?” Trzcinski asked.

He said that investigators escorted him out of class, discovered the gun in his backpack, and then took him into custody.  

Trzcinski emphasized that the suspect was not an active shooter and he was not walking around campus while brandishing a gun.

“Sometimes you have a low-key (approach),” he said. “We don’t want to create an accident circumstance when we react to the situation we’re going to. We want to do everything at the lowest key possible, especially when it comes to force.”

Heather Partington, a former English teacher at Elk Grove High, shared her concerns with the Citizen about how school officials treated the Oct. 7 incident and how they communicated with school staff. She said that the administration did not initially know the suspect’s identity or if he was in class – they instead emailed the staff to help them identify that student.

“The email did not include information about the gun, so teachers allowed their students to move about the campus as usual,” Partington said.

She argued that the lack of a lockdown unless a student brandishes a gun or is seen walking around with the gun is a sign that district and school administrators accept a “certain level of risk.”

“I would hope that (Elk Grove Unified) uses this as an opportunity to evaluate its policies and hopefully develop a protocol for weapons incidents such as this one,” Partington said. “This protocol should include asking teachers to keep students in their classrooms and out of harm’s way.”

Trzcinski told the Citizen that his security staff can’t control the information that school administrators send to their staff before and after an incident.

“That’s an issue they have to work on,” he said.