Education

‘Power of social media.’ Dunbar principal says rumors of violence unfounded.

The principal of Lexington’s Paul Laurence Dunbar High School on Friday sent an email to parents to clear up an unfounded rumor that students “had witnessed other students talking about a shooting at school.”

There was no truth to the rumor, said principal Betsy Rains in the email. All students were safe and in no danger. But she said the rumor spread rapidly on campus and in the community. Students called and sent text messages to their parents.

“This morning we are witnessing the power of social media and misinformation at Dunbar High School,” said Rains. “Let me begin by assuring you that all of our students are safe and there have been no threats of violence or shooting. While we are still investigating the original source of the rumor, we understand that some of our students have been spreading word via text and social media that they had witnessed other students talking about a shooting at school. “

Rains said school officials had thoroughly investigated the claim, with assistance from the Fayette County Public Schools Department of Law Enforcement, and “have determined there is no truth to this report. “

“Despite the facts and our efforts to make announcements to reassure our students, the rumor grew quickly and spun into many different versions all over campus,” Rains told parents. “As you may have experienced personally, students are calling and sending text messages to their parents, who are understandably concerned and flooding the front office, local news stations and the school district office with phone calls.”

“If there was a credible threat, our school would have been placed in a lockdown. The Fayette County Public Schools Department of Law Enforcement has sent additional officers to help with the investigation and to provide a reassuring presence on campus,” she said.

“Given recent national events, it is easy for unfounded rumors to spring up and quickly spin out of control. I want to assure you that we take any and all reports of potential threats against our students, staff and campus seriously and will take all steps necessary to keep Dunbar High School a safe place to learn and work,” Rains wrote.

Rains asked parents to reinforce with their children “that situations like this distract from the learning environment on our campus.”

“Students who are aware of a real threat to safety should absolutely share what they have heard with a trusted adult, but unfounded rumors such as today’s situation only cause unnecessary panic and concern across our school and community,” she said.

Students did bring guns to two other Fayette County Public School campuses this week. On Tuesday, an eighth-grader brought a loaded gun to Bryan Station Middle School. On. Wednesday, officials at The Learning Center on Price Road found that a junior had a shotgun in his truck in the parking lot. The weapon was unloaded, but there was ammunition stored separately in the vehicle. The weapon was never in the building, school officials said.

In both of those cases, principals also wrote to parents. They said an investigation had been conducted and they were confident that the student did not have any intent to use the weapon at school and did not have it because of any situation related to school.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears

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