Lack of communication only fuels rumors

Long before we were propelled into the digital age, kids had a way to communicate with each other – whether they passed notes during class, scribbled on bathroom walls or dropped a message in someone’s locker.

As much as teens and tweens thought their missives were private, news always had a way of getting out. By the time it trickled down to the lesser known cliques, the original story went from a mundane topic, like a harmless sleepover, to a night of debauchery complete with taking mom’s car for a joyride.

Gossip is nothing new, but the difference between then and now is that chatter took much longer to make the rounds. Comments were mostly kept in a contained environment – inside school walls – at least until after the final bell.

It used to be kids would jump off the bus and run home to tell mom and dad what happened at school that day. Today, all they have to do is grab their cellphones and send a text.

While opening the lines of communication is usually viewed as a positive, there’s a downside to instant availability, especially when teens and tweens don’t know the full story themselves.

March 3 was a perfect example of a game of Telephone gone terribly wrong. When students noticed law enforcement officials at Navarre High School that morning, they knew something was up.

As word began to spread, students texted their parents saying a someone brought a gun to school, and from there the story took on a life of its own. As parents pulled into the parking lot, some asked about “an active shooter on scene,” while some students said they heard there was a bomb threat.

The bottom line? No one knew what was going on. At least not until Principal Brian Noack sent a voicemail to parents alerting them to the threat and assuring them that it wasn’t credible.

The sad truth is school threats are on the rise, and according to a study conducted by National School Safety and Security Services, a national school safety consulting firm based in Cleveland, 812 were reported in 46 states from Aug.1 to Dec. 31.

The study states that 37 percent of threats were made electronically, which includes social media, text messaging and emails.

With an increase in threats, the next rumor just a text message away – so it’s imperative that schools keep their parental communication protocols up to date.

We have no doubt that the administration had the situation under control. We know NHS faculty would never endanger students. However, by not reaching out to parents, they left everyone wondering what on earth was going on. If the administration alerted parents to the threat the night before, when they first received word, and explained that there would be an increased police presence, we imagine the situation would have turned out differently, rather than parents leaving work to pick up their kids because of rumors about a gun on campus.

Parents shouldn’t have to learn about possible threats from Facebook or text messages. The district has a responsibility to keep them informed, and in this case, it would have stopped the rumor mill dead in its tracks.

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