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Keeping schools safe, rumors controlled

With the recent Sandy Hook tragedy fresh on American minds, rumors have begun to circulate throughout the country
Following the event in Connecticut last Friday, rumors of upcoming violence at schools throughout the region were viral on social media this past week.
   “There has been a heightened level of discussions among students, especially on Facebook, about some kind of violence possibly happening on Friday,” said Crook County High School Principal Rocky Miner and Crook County Middle School Principal Stacy Smith on Wednesday in a letter to parents, students, and community members — ironically also on Facebook and the school district website.
   With the availability of social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Pinterest (just a few among an increasing amount), discussions that result in rumors are more prevalent than ever. Prineville Police Chief Eric Bush stated that after every shooting crisis over the past 15 years, rumors have increased about other possible shootings.
   The difference in this incident is that the rumors spread like wildfire, using the platform of social media.
   There was also concern about a scheduled Active Shooter training that was to occur on Wednesday at CCHS. Miner said it was already scheduled more than a month ago, and he decided that with the recent Connecticut incident, it would be good to go ahead with the training.
   “We have already taught ,in our Connections Class with all our students, a lockdown drill lesson and a lockdown drill practice,” noted Miner. “We have already had one of those this year and we will have another one later in the year. All of the schools have done that.”
   Crook County High School Assistant Principal Michelle Jonas attended a Safe School Alliance meeting this week, which included all the tri-county school resource officers, communications personnel, and school administration throughout the region.
   “They are saying that across the state, people are experiencing the same types of rumors,” noted Jonas.
   Miner, Crook County Sheriff Jim Hensley, and Bush all said that they are investigating every rumor that is brought to their attention. Miner said that he has had School Resource Officer Jeff Coffman follow up on rumors since yesterday, and each one has turned out to be just that — a rumor.
   “As always, we have investigated these rumors and have found no credible evidence of any threats, but always look into new information as it presents itself,” responded Bush on Wednesday.
   Miner explained that the rumors don’t just pertain to the Crook County School District.
   “We’ve heard about it happening in Bend, and my understanding it was pretty rampant last week with The Bend School District. The first that we heard any of those rumors here was yesterday. Every rumor that we found out about, we worked with our student resource officer Jeff Coffman. Jeff investigated each one, and every one that he investigated right down to the very end was all rumors. We will continue to investigate rumors and we will continue to work with Prineville Police Department.”
   Miner went on to say that there are many factors that are present right now, and many things that are in the front of people’s minds as they approach the holiday season.
   “First we have the very sad and extreme violence that occurred in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last week,” indicated Miner and Smith. “Our students have been hearing about this and watching it on TV every day since this tragedy occurred. All of us are having to work through this senseless and sad act.”
   He added that the conversations that are happening based on the end of the Mayan Calendar on Friday, Dec. 21, along with the school shooting from last week, have created a higher level of anxiety and conversations among students.
   “There are rumors and things going around, but we have to look into all of them and we are going to. We have to take every precaution that we can,” said Hensley. “This is a topic of discussion around this entire country.”
   Miner and Smith emphasized in their letter that all of the schools in Crook County take school safety as a top priority.
   “We have all taught lessons on the topic and practiced lockdown drills this year,” they indicated. “This also reminds us of the importance of building positive relationships and having open dialogue with our students. As parents and teachers it is vital that we continue to have these discussions with our students.”