Three days after a report of a threat against Mancos schools led to lockout procedures and heightened security, a district employee has been cited for allegedly fabricating the report.
According to a news release from Mancos School District Re-6 Superintendent Brian Hanson, a substitute administrative assistant at Mancos High School told school officials Friday morning that she had received an anonymous phone call from a man who said, “We are going to kill you all,” leading the school district to go into lockout mode.
But according to the release, an investigation by the Mancos Marshal’s Office revealed that the assistant had “fabricated the entire story.”
The assistant, Danielle Romero-Keller, was issued a summons on Monday for false reporting to authorities and interfering with staff and students at an educational institution.
After the Marshal’s Office sent out a Nixle alert about the potential threat and parents were notified, many chose to check their children out of school. Classes ended just before 1 p.m. on Friday because, according to an announcement on the school district’s website, too many students were leaving early.
According to a report from Mancos Marshal Jason Spruell, surveillance video and school phone records showed that Romero-Keller had called the school herself at 8:36 a.m. from her cell phone, about four minutes before she reported the threat to Heath Showalter, the dean of students.
She reportedly denied calling the school at first, but later in the day, her attorney contacted Spruell and said she would turn herself in on Monday.
On Monday, Romero-Keller reportedly went to Mancos Town Hall and told Spruell she had called in the false threat from a blocked number. According to Spruell’s report, she said she had heard about a rumored threat to the Montezuma-Cortez School District that was reported through Safe2Tell Thursday night, and she had not received any training on what to do in the event of a lockdown or active shooter.
She reportedly said she was scared for her safety and had made the call because she wanted to “get all the students and staff out of the school before there was an actual threat to the school.”
Hanson said Romero-Keller had worked “off and on” in the school district for several years, but Friday was the end of her first week as a substitute administrative assistant.
The school district conducts lockdown drills about twice a year, he said. Substitute employees are always invited to the training, but are not required to attend. He said he wasn’t sure if Romero-Keller had ever participated in one.
Hanson said she was fired as of Monday.
“We, Mancos School District, have requested to the local district attorney’s office to pursue all charges to the maximum penalty allowed by law,” he wrote in the release, which was posted to the district’s website.
Hanson also thanked school district staff and Mancos Marshal Spruell for their quick response to the situation, saying everyone had followed district policy for security threats.
As part of a planned remodel, he said the school expects to start putting in new doors on several of its buildings next week, which will make it possible for them to be permanently locked during class periods.
The Re-1 School District in Cortez also heightened security on Friday in response to a Safe2Tell report, but Cortez police said they did not believe there was an active threat to the schools. Many parents in that district also checked their children out early, despite reassurances from police and the district that the report was unsubstantiated.
A news release from Superintendent Lori Haukeness thanked law enforcement officers for their response and cautioned members of the district against spreading unconfirmed reports.
“The rumors spreading on social media increase anxiety among our students and families,” the release said.
Haukeness went on to advise district members to call 911 or the Safe2Tell hotline at 1-877-542-7233 if they believed there was a real threat to the schools.
As of Wednesday, Romero-Keller did not yet have a scheduled court appearance.