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Watertown High School ordered to shelter in place after bullet found in classroom

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  December 20, 2013 12:15 PM

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Jaclyn Reiss for Boston.com

Watertown Police Lt. Michael Lawn talks about the bullet found today at Watertown High School.

Students at Watertown High School were ordered to shelter in place Friday and were dismissed early after a bullet was found in a classroom, according to police.

Lt. Michael Lawn said that a teacher found the bullet on top of a projector around 8 a.m. and school authorities called police and notified parents with an automatic phone message. Police confiscated the bullet as evidence, Lawn said.

Police searched the building while students stayed in their classrooms. Police also used an X-ray machine to search student's backpacks. But nothing more had been found as of 2 p.m, Lawn said.

School authorities started dismissing students around noon and the dismissal, which included the searching of backpacks, was still going on around 2 p.m. Teachers were briefed by police and searched and dismissed around 2:30 p.m., Lawn said.

Authorities said today was the last day of school before the students go on a two-week winter break.

The lieutenant said that police did not know how or when the bullet was placed on the projector and that the incident is still under investigation.

The message sent to parents said that school authorities were dismissing the students as quickly but orderly as possible "out of an abundance of caution."

An employee who answered the phone at the high school said everyone was safe.

The incident comes two weeks after the high school was evacuated and dismissed because of a bomb threat. Police and bomb squads searched the building after the threat came in Dec. 5 and found nothing.

Outside Watertown High School's entrance around 1 p.m., dozens of students milled about. Many said they felt safe, adding that they were thrilled to get out of class early. Several flung snowballs at their classmates in excitement.

However, some students appeared distressed, noting that the school has had a spate of emergencies in recent years.

"It feels like is the 20th time this has happened," said senior Kelly Horan, 18, outside the school. "I feel like people are doing it now because they know they can get out of class."

Casey Halle, 17, said although part of her was relieved she didn't have to take a test -- "Now I get two extra weeks to study!" -- the disruption still irritated her.

"It's just becoming a nuisance now," she said, adding that a separate incident two years ago had students sheltering in place for three hours after a bullet casing was found outside the school.

Other students were visibly distraught at the situation. Senior Gabriella Coppola, 18, stood outside the high school alone with a frown and furrowed brows.

"I feel safe because of how quickly the situation was handled, but I'm really upset and annoyed that people are doing this, especially since it's the last day before break," Coppola said. "It's depressing. Everybody's getting a bad idea of our high school."

Coppola said students and teachers were not told why they had to shelter in place, leading to a feeling of exasperation while they were cooped up for four hours.

"We found out what had happened through Twitter," she said. "The teachers had no idea."

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Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com

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