Friday’s school day, the last before the Christmas break, passed without incident in the Crosby-Ironton district.
Superintendent Jamie S. Skjeveland said children arrived for school with smiles on their faces ready for a day that included holiday events and activities. A small percentage of parents kept their children home after a report surfaced of threatening comments made by a juvenile male related to violence at the school. The statement was reported Friday would be a good day to bomb or shoot people at the school because of the Mayan doomsday prediction. But the world was still spinning after the doomsday clock ran out.
Skjeveland said the incident was a rumor that went viral. The school added precautions with law enforcement presence at the high school and elementary school Friday. Skjeveland said any threat of violence is taken seriously.
But, Skjeveland said the school district did learn a lesson in how to communicate with parents. The threatening comment by a juvenile male was reportedly heard at a Sunday choir concert. People heard about it but it didn’t appear to really take off until someone made a comment about it on the school district’s Facebook page, prompting an official reply by Skjeveland. A flurry of comments followed. Some named a possible suspect. Others questioned why they were hearing about it on Facebook when not all parents are part of that social media. Comments and speculation escalated quickly.
Friday, the school district’s Facebook page said simply: “A recent post on this site has been removed due to sensitive information and inaccurate comments that were posted.”
“We learned a lot of lessons with this situation,” Skjeveland said. “We’ll make adjustments with notification and make things better.”
One of those adjustments is no longer using Facebook for such postings, at least for the foreseeable future.
Skjeveland said the district’s principals deal with rumors as part of their jobs and notifications are not sent out for every instance. And Skjeveland is concerned about “crying wolf” so people take a school alert seriously when it happens and do not think it’s a drill. When there is a real threat, Skjeveland said there are systems in place, including a school alert system.
“We’ll continue to investigate every threat — rumor or not,” he said.
In regard to the Facebook posting, Skjeveland said the district set up the Facebook page to have a two-way conversation with parents and the public. And it proved to be an effective tool, he said. People posted questions and received direct answers.
“In this case it just didn’t work,” Skjeveland said. “It was just too close to events in Connecticut. It just made for an unfortunate sequence of events.”
There were a litany of inappropriate remarks that weren’t factual and went against the intent of the Facebook page, Skjeveland said.
“We talked with a number of parents and it gets back to we responded to a Facebook posting with a Facebook posting and in future we will probably not use Facebook but use a letter that goes home to parents,” Skjeveland said, adding the district will continue to seek effective, efficient ways to talk to parents and the community.
There are school districts able to use websites and Facebook, but Skjeveland said for awhile Crosby-Ironton will continue to rely on sending notes home with children.
The district’s main theme is to provide a safe environment, Skjeveland said.
“We want them to come here and be safe and have fun while they are learning. that’s what our community wants for our kids.”