Parents who kept their children home from Weaver High School on Friday because of a rumored threat won’t have to worry about their student taking a zero for any work, a school official said.
Calhoun County Schools’ director of safety, Randy Reaves, said Friday that there had been a rumor of a threat posted to social media, but that no student could point law enforcement officials to the existence of any evidence. Still, that did little to quell parents’ concerns and many students left school early.
Calhoun County Schools’ Deputy Superintendent Holly Box said Monday that any student who missed school or checked out early won’t be penalized with an unexcused absence.
“I’ve reached out to the school administrator, and he’s assured me if anyone has been told it is unexcused, that’s incorrect,” she said. “It is still an absence, but it is excused. We want all children to be safe and feel safe.”
The threat rumor in Weaver came four days after Jacksonville police arrested a 13-year-old for what was perceived as a threat towards Jacksonville High School. That student was one of seven recently arrested in the region for making such threats towards schools, officials said last week.Those incidents are among many around the state and nation in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., shootings that left 17 people dead last month.
The threats have forced school officials to handle each incident on a case-by-case basis, and some parents have differed in their opinions on how to handle the situations.
While efforts to reach Jacksonville’s superintendent were unsuccessful on Monday, parents said they’d like better and quicker information before deciding whether to keep their children home.
Brad Richardson, father of a Jacksonville High School freshman, said he checked his son out of school Friday.
“I checked him out early Friday because he texted and seemed uncomfortable staying at the school after hearing rumors of another threat,” Richardson said. “While his education is important, his well-being is more important, that includes his emotional state. He needs to know that he can count on me when he comes to me about something.”
It wasn’t until the school day was over and on social media that Richardson found out about the threat last week, he said. Since the incident, Richardson said he has had a hard time trusting the school to communicate effectively.
“If there’s a threat, then no matter how well it’s communicated, I wouldn’t send him,” he said. “But if they have found the person or people responsible and they have been apprehended, then all that had been communicated to me, then yes, I’d send him.”
Richardson said he didn’t ask about the school’s attendance policy regarding the check-out.
“I didn’t bother asking, I just signed him out and left. It would not have changed my mind either way,” the father said.
The code of conduct for Jacksonville’s schools has a caveat in its attendance policy, similar to the county schools, that allows administrators to excuse absences in “emergency conditions.” Parents can also send written excuses for no more than five absences.
Richardson said he’s not worried about absences affecting his son’s education, but he is about threats or rumors of threats.
“I do think his and the other kids’ education will probably suffer because they’re not only worrying about tests and homework, other school functions, but they’re noticeably worried if someone is going to follow through with these threats,” he said. “And the teachers are having to deal with possibly doubling as security instead of focusing on lesson planning and such.”
While the threat last week was aimed at the high school, Meredith Pace, who has a second-grader at Kitty Stone Elementary, said she thought communication was lacking between the schools and parents.
“I got a message that there was nothing to worry about, but what confused me was that I wasn’t aware of anything to begin with,” she said. “Since the elementary school is right across the street, I feel like the parents need to know that there is a threat. Real or not.”