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Sehome High placed on a ‘lockout’ during nearby police activity

Walk through Sehome High School’s new building

Students attend their first classes in Sehome High School's new building Wednesday. The Bellingham school district passed a bond approving the school's construction in 2013.
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Students attend their first classes in Sehome High School's new building Wednesday. The Bellingham school district passed a bond approving the school's construction in 2013.

Sehome High School instituted lockout measures on Tuesday afternoon, May 7, but classes continued as police investigated an incident in the Happy Valley area nearby, police and school officials said.

“What I know is that Sehome opted to put their campus on a modified lockdown for the safety of their student body and staff as we investigate a suspicious circumstance call nearby,” Bellingham Police Lt. Claudia Murphy told The Bellingham Herald.

“There are no direct threats to the campus or the surrounding neighborhoods at this time,” Murphy said in an email just after 1 p.m. on Tuesday.

What that “suspicious circumstance” was about wasn’t known as of late Tuesday afternoon.

According to a page on the school district’s Facebook page, a student noticed a “concerning situation near campus” in the afternoon and called police.

Bellingham Public Schools spokeswoman Dana Smith told The Herald that the school went into what officials call a “lockout” protocol, which is different from a traditional lockdown.

“In a lockout, the exterior doors are closed but classes continue as normal,” Smith said.

She said that on a lockout, window blinds are closed and entry to the school is limited.

The lockout began approximately 12:45 p.m. and continued until classes let out for the day at 3:15 p.m., according to the school district.

Bellingham resident Helen Neville told The Herald that her son texted and then called from the school library, where several students were gathered.

Though there were rumors that nearby Western Washington University also was involved, spokesman Paul Cocke said University Police reported nothing unusual on campus.

Both Bellingham Police and Bellingham Schools posted information about the incident on social media.

“We will share updates as we have them,” the school district tweeted.

Around 2:30 p.m., Murphy said in a follow-up email that police were “still gathering information.”

“I will let you all know what I can, when we find out more,” she told The Herald.

After classes let out at Sehome, bus transportation, student pickup and all after-school activities were on a normal schedule, according to the school district.

Kie Relyea has been a reporter at The Bellingham Herald since 1997 and currently writes about social services and recreation in Whatcom County. She started her career in 1991 as a reporter and editor in Northern California.
Robert Mittendorf covers civic issues, weather, traffic and how people are coping with the high cost of housing for The Bellingham Herald. A journalist since 1984, he’s also a volunteer firefighter for South Whatcom Fire Authority.
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