Parents hurry, then wait in hours-long line to pick up kids following Oak Park threat

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A traffic jam resulted in the Oak Park High School parents attempting to pick up their evacuated children at Staley High School Monday afternoon. Some parents waited in line as much as two hours in their cars to get to Staley High; some resorted to parking their cars in the street or on the shoulder and walking.

Parents received a rob-call from Oak Park High School soon after 10 a.m. on Monday; around the same time, the text messages from their children also hit their phones.

“Immediately after that, Mason was texting me,” mother Laurie Draughon said, gesturing to her 15-year-old, “telling me they were safe in their classroom, they had them locked in.”

Caleb McNeall did the same.

“I texted him,” as the 16-year-old gestured to his father, “to let him know what was going on. I don't know, it was kind of scary.”

McNeall was in class. He says within an hour, things quickly escalated.

“At first, it was just a lock and teach,” he explained, where they can still teach, but we have to lock the doors. After that, it progressed and became just a lockdown.

He continued, “Then after that - they got on the intercom and told us they were going to evacuate us And so we waited about an hour - well, my class did, and then come in, with our hands over our heads and they would press us against the lockers and pat us down, and then they would put us on the bus and take us to Staley.”

McNeall explained the situation very matter-of-factly. His father wasn’t quite as composed.

Throughout Oak Park’s three robo-calls to parents, the principal’s voice reiterated the need for cooperation and patience. For parents, that cooperation and patience lasted almost two hours. Panicked parents packed the roads around Staley High School. Draugon admitted “the line was really long; I finally got out and walked.”

Rob McNeall, Caleb’s father, parked across the street from Staley High School and walked to pick up his two sons. Inside, he said, “I was really kind of surprised at how organized it was when I got there - but there was a sea of humanity in that waiting room, a sea of expectant parents - no nervous parents. But I was surprised how quickly I got through.”

Parents picking up students filled out a form and had to provide a photo ID. “The inconvenience of waiting,” said Larry Balmer, another father of an Oak Park student, “is nothing compared to our kids being fine and safe, and I think they did a good job.”

Any Oak Park students not picked up by their parents were bussed back to Oak Park around 2:30; those students caught their regular buses home. They’ll be allowed to go into the school building at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, reporting to the class from which they evacuated to pick up their belongings.