Education

Three Lexington principals provide new information about safety, threats

Zach Sippy, a senior at Henry Clay where a gun incident took place earlier in the day, expressed his dissatisfaction with the agenda Thursday during a meeting of FCPS district safety advisory council.
Zach Sippy, a senior at Henry Clay where a gun incident took place earlier in the day, expressed his dissatisfaction with the agenda Thursday during a meeting of FCPS district safety advisory council.

In the wake of posts on social media about possible violence, three Fayette County school principals released new information regarding school safety.

▪  Lexington Traditional Magnet School Principal Larry Caudill said there will be an increased police presence at the school on Monday, even though officials don’t believe student posts on social media about possible violence are credible.

▪  After a loaded gun was found at Henry Clay High School on Thursday, Principal Paul Little promised improved communications and scheduled a public meeting to discuss safety on March 7.

▪  Winburn Middle School Principal Whitney Allison said officials were close to charging those responsible for last week’s social media prank alleging possible violence at Winburn.

All three principals sent letters to families Friday.

Caudill said the increased police presence at LTMS “is just to help everyone feel better, not because there is a concern.”

“We are actively investigating these reports with assistance from our Fayette County Public Schools Department of Law Enforcement and the Lexington Police Department, but have no reason to believe they are credible at this time,” Caudill said. “We are investigating the source of the misinformation and will take appropriate disciplinary action. According to state law, making a threat — even a false one — against a school is a felony and we will prosecute those responsible for this incident to the fullest extent of the law.

“I want to assure you that we take any reports of possible threats seriously and work with law enforcement officials to fully investigate,” he added. “We will take all steps necessary to keep LTMS a safe place to learn and work.”

Caudill noted that since fatal school shootings in Florida and Western Kentucky this year, schools across the state and nation have been experiencing a rash of copycat threats.

He said LTMS students shared the messages they received with adults, a correct response that helps underscore the importance of reporting any safety concern they have to an adult immediately.

“It is also critical for our students to understand that sharing unfounded rumors and false information causes heightened anxiety unnecessarily,” Caudill said.

Students and parents at an inaugural meeting Thursday of a Fayette County school safety council voiced concerns when the meeting did not immediately address an incident earlier in the day when a Henry Clay High School student brought a pistol to s

In his letter on Friday, Henry Clay Principal Paul Little assured families: “All is well here at Henry Clay.” And he said he was determined to use “the events of yesterday to make our school even stronger.”

On Thursday, Henry Clay parents and students reacted with fear and frustration after it was discovered that a student had brought a loaded gun to school. Fewer than 40 percent of students showed up for school on Friday, and those students were granted excused absences.

Despite additional social media rumors about possible violence on Friday, school district spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said there were no problems. Students will not receive excused absences on Monday.

On Thursday evening, school officials held a meeting that was intended to be generally about school safety, but which saw frustrated parents and students demanding answers about what happened at Henry Clay.

Immediately after the meeting, Superintendent Manny Caulk talked with concerned parents and students and promised improved communication.

Emmanuel "Manny" Caulk, Fayette County Superintendent, announced plans after the District Safety Advisory Council’s meeting to quickly inform parents of incidents occurring at schools in response to miscommunication between parents and students in

Little in his letter said that one of his commitments is to work on better avenues of communication with students, staff and families.

Caulk had mentioned the possibility of an additional meeting for Henry Clay families, and Little said he will hold a public meeting to discuss safety at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Henry Clay cafeteria.

“You may ... have ideas and suggestions about how we can improve our safety procedures here at Henry Clay, or you may still have questions about what happened,” Little said. He said the meeting will provide an open forum for those conversations.

“While we worked yesterday to ensure that families were given accurate information about yesterday’s incident, I understand that some of you did not receive our messages. Although it is unlikely (we) will ever be faster than a student’s text message or Snapchat, we do want to get information to you more quickly,” Little said.

Little noted that district officials will soon be releasing an enhanced emergency notification system for families, staff and students and that Henry Clay is working with them to enhance existing strategies and establish protocols “so we are better able to communicate in real time.”

Caulk announced last week that schools such as Henry Clay where the front door does not lead to a secure vestibule would have new employee monitors. Little said the new staff member began Friday at Henry Clay.

“Do not be offended when you are asked for identification and purpose for visiting when you enter the building,” Little said.

Whitney Allison, principal of Winburn Middle School, told parents in her letter Friday that authorities “are close to charging those responsible” for a social media prank alleging possible violence at the school.

After about four hours on “heightened alert” in the building on Wednesday, Winburn students and parents were told that a threat discovered on Instagram was likely a prank.

“Working with our Fayette County Department of Law Enforcement and Lexington Police Department, we believe we have identified the source of the social media messages and are close to charging those responsible,” she said. “I am confident that our students are safe here at Winburn.

“While I understand that recent events have raised anxiety and concerns across our nation and here in Kentucky, please help us reassure them and remind them that they are surrounded by caring adults who are here for them.”

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

If you go

The principal at Henry Clay High School is holding a public meeting on safety at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 7, in the cafeteria .at the school at 2100 Fontaine Road, Lexington.

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