Fight Between Janitors Prompts School Lockdown

Temporary Hires Had Heated Exchange over Division of Labor

A heated verbal exchange between two janitors prompted a campus-wide lockdown of Harding University Partnership School yesterday afternoon.

Lt. Paul McCaffrey with the Santa Barbara Police Department said the two men — temporary custodians hired by the school district through a placement agency — got into an argument over the division of duties. One of the men, feeling threatened, began swinging a vacuum cleaner hose at the other, McCaffrey said.

The hose-swinging janitor then left the campus. Police, called by the school, soon caught up with him. The man explained he had been defending himself, worried that the other custodian might use the box cutter he kept on his belt. There is no evidence, however, that the box cutter or any other knife was involved in the incident, McCaffrey said.

As police were conducting their investigation, word somehow got back to school officials that a knife-wielding man was present on campus. This prompted Principal Sally Kingston to initiate a full lockdown at around 2 p.m., which lasted approximately 12 minutes. The lockdown was lifted once school administrators learned the situation was under control.

“The students and staff responded as they are trained to do,” said Kingston in a prepared statement. “The safety of our students and staff is our top priority and I am proud of their immediate response to emergency procedures.” Kingston reportedly sent a phone message out to Harding parents, informing them of the lockdown.

Barbara Keyani with the Santa Barbara Unified School District said one of the temporary custodians — it’s not clear which — had been working for Harding for about a month, filling in for a full-time janitor who’s out sick. The second temp had been working on the campus for two weeks. He occupied the position while the district looks for a permanent employee, and will be allowed back to Harding School. The other will not. Neither were charged with any crime.

The temp agency, Express Personnel Services, conducts full background and fingerprint checks for people it recommends for employment, said Keyani. “There have been no previous incidents with temporary employees hired through the temp agency,” she explained.

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