Monday, November 16, 2015

Potential threat results in attendance drop

Juliana Discher I Staff Writer
October 20 was not a designated skip day, yet 20 percent of the student body still didn’t show up.
After a threatening note was left anonymously in a Mason High School classroom, administration felt the need to alert parents on the matter. Principal David Hyatt said, when it comes to addressing threats, the definitive information regarding the incident won’t be revealed, as it’s safer for students, but the community is still given the necessary ground knowledge.
“With any investigation, we don’t get into the specific details,” Hyatt said. “It’s not that we’re trying to hide anything, we just don’t get into what we do in an investigation. We sent an email to parents about the note to keep people informed and educated on what’s going on. We feel our staff, our families, and our community have the right to know where we’re at and what we’re doing.”
A thorough investigation was conducted to ensure the safety of students and staff at school on October 20, Hyatt said.
“We reached out to a number of people,” Hyatt said. “The last thing we want is to walk into this building and not have the assurance that everyone is completely safe. After talking to the Mason Police Department, the chief of police, central office, superintendents, we came together and made the decision that it was a concern, but we were 100 percent positive it was safe.”
On the date the note alluded to, Hyatt said that the appropriate measures were taken.
“Our staff was very vigilant, as they always are,” Hyatt said. “It’s pretty well know that Mason Police Department had a larger presence during that school day. There was an additional police officer cruising the parking lot. We also had three plain clothed officers in the hallways because they’re trained to identify things that look suspicious or concerning. Since that day was specifically pointed out, we felt that we should have additional support.”
There was a significant increase in absences on October 20. Hyatt said he understands why parents allowed their children to stay home that day, which is why all the absences were excused.
“It’s certainly a parent’s right to judge if they feel comfortable having their child go to school,” Hyatt said. “We obviously want every student here, but there are other things in life that we have to respect. The bottom line is that we’re gonna go back and pick up where we left off.”
According to Fox19, five separate schools across the Tri-State were targeted with bomb threats on October 7. Hyatt said these events were unrelated to the incident that happened at Mason.
“I don’t think there was any correlation,” Hyatt said. “Those were verbal threats and ours was just a concern based on a note found.”
According to assistant principal Dan Distel, safety threats have seemed to be more prevalent recently.
“It feels like this is more on our front burner of concerns when it comes to threats in the region,” Distel said. “Although, building safety is always our number one priority, some of those trends do make it feel like it’s more of a fad or if there are copy cats.”
Distel said some of the blame for increased threats can be attributed to social media usage, but it’s mostly unknown as to why they’re being seen more frequently.
“We saw a little bit of students making threats on social media last year,” Distel said. “I think kids understand more the consequences that can come out of irresponsible social media usage. In this day and age, with how quick communication can happen, people definitely say things through social media that they immediately regret.”
Hyatt said it was coincidental that this incident occurred during ‘Say Something Week’—an initiative established after Sandy Hook. The basis of the week is to encourage any person who finds something that doesn’t seem right or is concerning, to alert an administrator or law enforcement officer.
“Our best measure of safety is our students, staff, and community talking and letting us know if they hear or see things,” Hyatt said. “We’re fortunate that we have people who take that very seriously. This (incident) was identified through a staff member who felt the need to say something and I commend that person. I only hope that students feel the same need to report things because ultimately, that’s what keeps us safe.”
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