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Report on Blocked Phones Checked

April 24, 1999

LITTLETON, Colo. (AP) _ School officials are checking reports that Columbine High School had blocked 911 calls from school phones because of previous pranks.

A Denver police officer said he took a call from a Columbine student during Tuesday’s shooting rampage because the boy couldn’t get through to authorities in Jefferson County, where the school is located in suburban Denver.

The boy told him the phone was blocked for emergency calls.

``They’ll do that in schools, make (dozens of) 911 hangup calls,″ said Denver officer John Lietz.

Kay Pride, spokeswoman for Jefferson County schools, said they had heard reports that some students had trouble getting through to authorities. She said pay phones had been checked but no tests have been run yet on the school’s internal system.

``That’s a question that hasn’t been answered yet,″ Pride said.

Some students used their own cellular phones to call 911; others unable to get emergency calls through called family members, who then dialed for help. Authorities Friday released tapes of two 911 calls made from the school; it wasn’t known what type of phones were used for those calls. A police officer at the school also alerted dispatchers after hearing the first shots.

David Biegie, spokesman for the phone company U S West, said the school’s internal system could be programmed by school officials to block any numbers they wanted, such as any long distance calls. He said it was possible the school blocked 911 calls on some phones, while giving access to phones in other parts of the school.

``They can program the phone to do whatever they want it to do,″ he said.

He said students also may have been trying to use internal phone systems that act only as intercoms, or failing to dial the correct number to get an outside line.

U S West ran extensive tests on pay telephones at the school and found them working. He said pay phones are required to have 911 access by federal law.

Lietz, whose daughter attends the school, said he spent more than two hours on the phone with the student, Matt Depew, son of a Denver police officer. He kept the younger Depew on the phone throughout the ordeal, telling him that his father, Wayne, was outside trying to help him.

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