05/05/07 — Rumors and fear: Prompt, clear information needed in campus incidents

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Rumors and fear: Prompt, clear information needed in campus incidents

OK, let’s try again. Maybe this time, someone will get the message at the Wayne County Public Schools central office.

We understand why you do not want to release a lot of information when an incident occurs on one of your school campuses. First off, it is a little embarrassing — and unless you are a teacher or administrator, you probably would not readily understand how incidents like this occur at schools. Dealing with teenagers is never easy.

And then there is the rumor mill. Sometimes people get the wrong idea if they hear too much about disciplinary action being taken and draw conclusions about safety and consequences that are incorrect. Then, they spread their interpretation around the county.

We also know that you are trying to protect the privacy of the minor children under your care and that sometimes what is immediately known to a crowd gathered outside a school has not disseminated to all the adults in charge.

But after two rounds of incidents where word spread like wildfire through the community — and parents and students were imagining all sorts of dangers — one would think you would understand by now that silence is getting you nowhere.

The incident last week at Spring Creek High School scared many parents and students — especially in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre. Even though the circumstances might have been different, the point is that in this climate, no parent is willing to take a chance with his or her son or daughter.

You should understand that, since many of you are parents, too.

So, the next time there is an incident at Spring Creek High School — or anywhere else for that matter — it would be better to respond immediately with as many details as you can legally provide. That way, rather than a rumor mill that creates gang warfare in your parking lots, you will have a community that understands the circumstances and has heard firsthand your response to them.

That is how you keep a simple problem from becoming a federal case.

The recent shooting at Virginia Tech as well as the subsequent copycat threats around the country have unnerved us all. No one is really sure what is safe anymore — or how to prevent another incident like it from happening again.

Keeping our schools free from tragedy requires open communication, an understanding from parents and students that they must be partners in keeping their campuses safe and school officials who have a plan and are open about the measures they are taking to police the hallways and school yards.

And even with all that, no one can guarantee there will never be a tragedy like Columbine or Virginia Tech here.

Wayne County has been lucky. We have not had to deal with the heartbreak of losing innocent lives in such a terrible way.

Keeping that from our borders requires talking, trust and a determination that we are in this together.

And maintaining that trust requires communication — not rumor mills.

Published in Editorials on May 5, 2007 10:51 PM