UTHS offers “safest environment possible” during threat

Posted by on February 6, 2018 with 0 Comments

School lets out at the end of the day on January 31, a day that faced an anonymous, unfounded threat that was followed by rampant social media rumors. “Nothing transpired in terms of what was rumored.  No weapons, no arrests, no hit-lists.  It was very quiet,” said Dr. Jay Morrow, superintendent.

by Mr. Schou

Last Wednesday in the halls of UTHS there were fewer students present than usual, but the adult population was far more visible due to an anonymous threat.  After UT generated e-mails and phone calls on Tuesday night to all the families of students in the district to relay the story of a message found on a bathroom wall, some parents chose to keep their students home for safety.

What was the specific threat people were reacting to?  The real answer is that nobody actually knew, including the UTHS administration and the East Moline Police Department, because as the communication to parents made clear, the actual threat was defaced and illegible to those who discovered it.  Even though there was no credible information to share, this didn’t stop some users of social media from speculating, to flat-out fabricating, information.  Throughout Tuesday night and Wednesday, rumors were spreading on Facebook, Twitter, and beyond.

According to Dr. Jay Morrow, superintendent, “There was no reference to a violent act, only that something would happen on January 31.  That ‘something’ could be interpreted as anything.  Sadly, school violence is not a new phenomenon, so anything that is brought to our attention must be scrutinized.”

Both school administrators and the East Moline Police Department investigated the graffiti, including questioning students identified as potential witnesses on security cameras.  The results of those investigations led both groups to believe the threat was not credible, but the school district wanted to share what it knew with students’ families.

Dr. Morrow said, “In cooperation with the EMPD, based on evidence that we had (or lack thereof), we decided that it likely wasn’t a threat; however, we chose to error on the side of caution.”

Caution was not used on social media, however, and stories only grew during the day on Wednesday.  These stories were simply not accurate. “Nothing transpired in terms of what was rumored.  No weapons, no arrests, no hit-lists.  It was very quiet,” said Dr. Morrow.

Mr. Anthony Ragona, assistant principal, put it succinctly: “The most dangerous weapon we faced that day was misinformation on social media.”

Three additional EMPD officers were on campus all day, and all entry points were supervised by staff members.  Administrators spent the day observing the halls in addition to the regular hall monitoring staff, and teachers spent more time than usual outside their rooms during passing periods.

Dr. Morrow recognized the sad reality of school violence and promised, “We will continue to do our best to offer the safest environment possible.”

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