A day after a loaded gun was found at Henry Clay High School, less than 40 percent of their students attended school Friday.
Cooper Boss, an 18-year-old senior, was one of the few seniors at the school Friday. Speaking during an English class that included just him and a teacher’s aid, he said there is no fear among the people he has talked to, though a lot of them were “weirded out” there were not many students at school.
Principal Paul Little Jr., announced Thursday he would give excused absences to students who left early Thursday or did not come Friday following a loaded gun being found and additional rumors spreading throughout the school.
More social media rumors spread by Thursday night, leading Lexington police to assist Fayette County Public Schools’ law enforcement with the investigation. Police said Thursday night they did not believe the rumors to be credible.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
Boss and junior Luke Webster said many of the students who did not show up Friday only did so because it was an excused absence.
“Some of the people yesterday who left school were scared, especially those who are freshman. A lot of them left because their parents are newer,” Webster said. “But especially those in my class, the juniors and the seniors who could drive, they took advantage that we could leave with an excused absence.”
“I think the attendance dropped not necessarily because of fear, though I know there are some who were afraid, but I think an overwhelming majority did not go because of today being an excused absence,” said Boss, who added that he was surprised so many people did not come to school Friday.
Less than 40 percent of the school’s 2,367 students attended school Friday, according to Fayette County Public Schools spokesperson Lisa Deffendall. The school typically has around 95 percent attendance, she said.
In an announcement through the intercom during second period Thursday, students were made aware about the situation involving a student with a loaded gun having been arrested, but it did not settle all of the fears from students.
“As soon as the intercom went off, people started talking and rumors started spreading and snowballing,” Boss said. “People said they know about another gun. People started panicking by fourth hour, parents were panicking. The lobby of the school was full with students wanting to check out.”
He said the fear from January’s shooting at Marshall County High School, February’s shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida and other threats made in Fayette County led to a heightened fear throughout the school.
After the initial announcement was made, there were no additional announcements to ease the concerns of students, Boss said.
“After that (first announcement) was when the rumors spread. That’s when the lack of communication became dangerous,” he said. “They weren’t communicating that those rumors were false.”
Webster, meanwhile, felt that the administration was “remarkably transparent” with how they handled the communication Thursday. He said that within the first hour or two of the announcement, people were talking in hushed whispers but most people felt safe.
“(The administration has) let us know everything,” Webster said. “They have told us what is happening and they have laid out everything for us. They have respected people’s rights of privacy, regarding the student who brought the firearm, but they have been remarkably transparent.
“It was definitely scary at first, but I had complete faith in our administration,” he added. “They have done an amazing job and handled everything well.”
Deffendall said students will not be given excuses absences Monday. “There is no reason for concern,” she said.