Woman leaves detergent in Dubai school, causes panic

 khaleejtimes.com  06/12/2019 22:01:00  4  Sarwat Nasir /Dubai

The Dubai Police slammed a British curriculum school for causing "unnecessary panic" after it went into lock down when laundry detergent and cleaning tools - brought on campus by a Latina parent with intent to teach workers "how to clean the school properly" - were discovered in campus.

Update on the GEMS Wellington incident :
The woman ( a parent in her 30s ) entered the school wearing a medical mask and carrying some cleaning powder and detergents in a bid to participate in cleaning the school and show the school's cleaners "how to clean properly".

- Dubai Police???? ??? (@DubaiPoliceHQ) June 12, 2019

A series of chaotic events unfolded outside of the GEMS Wellington Academy in Al Khail on Wednesday as parents were asked to pick up their children in the morning hours.

Scores of worried and anxious parents waited outside the campus gates for nearly an hour in scorching temperature. However, they were not given any information except that their children were safe. Some were in tears, while others pleaded the staff and security for more information on their children. But lack of information and the long wait added to the panic.

Update on the GEMS Wellington incident :
The school management seems to have rushed sending messages causing unnecessary panic among parents.

- Dubai Police???? ??? (@DubaiPoliceHQ) June 12, 2019

By 1:40pm, the police had released information that it was a Latina woman who entered the school with a medical mask, cleaning tools and powder soap with an intention to teaching the workers how to clean the school.

The Dubai Police tweeted: "The woman (a parent in her 30s) entered the school wearing a medical mask and carrying some cleaning powder and detergents in a bid to participate in cleaning the school and show the school's cleaners 'how to clean properly'."

Major-General Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri, Commander-in-Chief of the Dubai Police, said that the school administration caused unnecessary panic by sending an urgent text message, raising fear among parents. The Dubai Police took immediate action to confirm the nature of the material.

Later, a GEMS spokesperson said in a statement that the school will function as normal from Thursday "following a minor occurrence".

#DubaiPolice officers have successfully dealt with the situation and secured the location.All students and academic staff are perfectly safe.

2/2

- Dubai Police???? ??? (@DubaiPoliceHQ) June 12, 2019

"As the safety and security of our students and staff is our foremost priority, we suspended classes temporarily. We thank Dubai Police for their prompt support in resolving the situation swiftly. We reiterate to all students and parents that we are fully committed to the well-being of our students," the statement said.

Khaleej Times was on site and spoke to concerned parents. "My child was messaging me that he was scared and wanted to get picked up," one parent said. "I immediately rushed to the school and saw that many other parents were waiting outside. The school authorities weren't telling us anything that happened or why they weren't releasing the children."

Another parent said: "They should inform the parents what is happening and why they aren't releasing our kids."

It wasn't until around 12:20pm when parents were finally allowed in the parking lot inside the school's gate. The school principal attempted to reassure the parents that the children were safe, however, could not be released yet as police and CID officers carried out their investigations.

By 12:40pm, parents were taken inside the campus to collect their children.

"They told us that two strangers had broken into the school and they put the school on lockdown. The kids were kept inside the corners of the classrooms they were in," one mum said.

Another mother said: "I'm just happy they gave me my child. How are you going to keep our children inside and not tell us anything? The children weren't responding to calls or messages. The staff aren't telling us what happened. How did they expect us to react?"

After it was announced that the hysteria was caused because of a laundry detergent and cleaning supplies, one father said: "It was a lot of confusion and panic for nothing. But, I think, the important thing is that all the children are safe."

In a series of tweets, the Dubai Police updated the details of the incidents time to time: "Update on the GEMS Wellington incident: At 11:00am this morning, a Latin woman, in her thirties, used her parent access card to enter the school and performed a suspicious activity in the premises before leaving the location.

"#DubaiPolice officers have successfully dealt with the situation and secured the location. All students and academic staff are perfectly safe.

Dubai Police are currently handling a situation involving an unidentified individual at the GEMS Wellington School on Al Khail Road. Our officers on site are investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident. All students are safe under the provision of school authorities.

- Dubai Police???? ??? (@DubaiPoliceHQ) June 12, 2019

"Update on the GEMS Wellington incident: The school management seems to have rushed sending messages causing unnecessary panic among parents."

GEMS had also issued a statement earlier in the day: "We have been made aware of an incident which happened at one of our schools this morning. Authorities are currently investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident. All students are safe under the provision of school authorities while this matter is investigated further."

TIMELINE

The panic caused by some detergent

11am: A parent entered the school and left behind a "suspicious" bottle. Shortly after authorities were alerted. Parents were informed to pick up their children and school went into lockdown.

11am: Children were kept inside the classrooms they were in and the entire campus was on lockdown. Dubai Police and CID officers arrived at the scene immediately and investigated the matter.

12pm: Scores of parents were outside the school gates. However, they were not being allowed in. Parents pleaded the security and staff for more information and to be allowed to collect their children

12.20pm: Parents were allowed up to the parking lot inside the campus, where the principal addressed them. He said their children were safe, police were investigating the situation and that the children could not be released yet. Panic, anxiety and anger grew among parents as some were in tears and some were screaming for more answers.

12.40pm: Parents were taken inside the campus to collect their children. They were relieved.

1.40pm: The Dubai Police released information that a Latina woman had used her parent access card to enter the school and left behind a laundry detergent. The police said "the school management seems to have rushed sending messages causing unnecessary panic among parents".

4.50pm: Dubai Police tweeted: The woman (a parent in her 30s) entered the school wearing a medical mask and carrying some cleaning powder and detergents in a bid to participate in cleaning the school and show the school's cleaners "how to clean properly".

sarwat@khaleejtimes.com

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