CRESTON, Iowa — Braeton Rinner was just finishing his second-period physical education class at Creston High School Tuesday morning. His mother, Roxanne Walters, was on the job working for the nearby city of Afton. They both received frightening warnings.

Braeton, a high school junior, heard the warning over the school’s intercom. He and his classmates needed to head to the wrestling room, a place designed for safe shelter in an emergency. For Walters, her warning was the announcement she heard that all available law enforcement should head to Creston for an emergency situation at the high school.

“Once we got into the wrestling room, I could hear a couple kids with higher-pitched voices. They were kind of upset talking to their parents … a little freaked out,” Braeton said.

“Of course … stomach dropped,” Walters said upon hearing the alert at her son’s school, “Panic.”

Neither knew at the time that the report that four students had been shot at the school was only a hoax, likely a case of “swatting,” where someone calls in a threat using an internet system that can disguise their location.

Creston was one of 30 Iowa school districts where the Iowa Department of Public Safety received similar threats on Tuesday.

“Praying that it’s a false alarm. Emotions are just going through my mind,” Walter said. “The unknown. You just don’t know.”

Braeton estimated that that unknown lasted between 10 and 12 minutes before school officials let students and staff know that there was no threat on campus. “Getting the hell home,” Braeton said was what he thought about. He went home for the rest of the day.

“Horrible experience,” he said.

Creston Superintendent Deron Stender sent out this message about an hour after the school went into lockdown.

Dear Parents & Families

This morning the Creston Police Department received a call indicating a shooting at the high school and emergency personnel responded immediately.  The district initiated a districtwide lockdown and followed safety protocols.   Law enforcement and emergency responders searched the buildings and conducted an investigation and determined the threat is not credible.  The All Clear was issued and classes have resumed.

Sadly, swatting is occurring across the state and nation trigging alarms and panic in our children, staff, parents, schools, and communities.  I want every parent and staff member to know that the safety of our students and staff is my absolute priority. We have robust security and well-trained staff who responded to the lockdown and initiated their training.   

I recognize how difficult this is for our children, staff, families, and our communities and I am committed to our children’s and staff’s safety. Please visit with your child(ren) and ask them how they felt and what we can do to help them feel safe at our schools.  

Deron Stender