Student’s Facebook post sparks investigation; schools, police determine ‘no threat’
With school shootings haunting people’s minds, a Facebook post had Ridgefield school authorities and police scrambling early Thursday morning, Feb. 15. No risk, was the eventual conclusion.
“As a community, we maintain our safe and healthy school environments by first and foremost creating a culture of trust and communication,” Superintendent of Schools Karen Baldwin wrote in letter e-mailed to parents about 9:30 Thursday morning. “Early today, at approximately 4:30 a.m., the high school principal, Dr. Gross, was made aware by a teacher that a student had shared Facebook posts that were concerning regarding school safety. Dr. Gross contacted me and we promptly contacted the Ridgefield Police Department. The police department conducted an investigation and concluded at 6:10 a.m. that the message was benign and there was no threat or risk to the safety and security of the Ridgefield High School community.”
Ridgefield Police Maj. Stephen Brown confirmed the investigation.
"Ridgefield school officials alerted our department to a disturbing social media post," he said. "Officers investigated the post and interviewed the party involved. Officers concluded there was no threat to the school community."
School authorities haven’t yet responded to questions from The Press about the incident.
But speculation among some students is that the incident was triggered by one post in a long line of student reactions to the school shooting in Florida on Wednesday. The post — reportedly along the lines of ‘Don’t go to school tomorrow’ — was said to have been made on a Facebook group informally associated with Ridgefield High School’s senior class, in a context where many students were expressing horror at the slaughter that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
Indeed, Dr. Baldwin began her letter to the school community with a reference to Florida shooting that took 17 lives Wednesday, and is the latest in a horrific line series of school shootings — 18 so far in 2018 — that traces through the Sandy Hook, Newtown, massacre in 2012 and back to the shooting spree at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999.
“I am writing to you today to share with you information related to school safety and security,” Dr. Baldwin began her letter. “I know that you all join me in extending expressions of prayer, hope, and healing for the community of Parkland, Florida as they struggle with the devastating loss of students and staff from a school shooting.”
Board of Education chairwoman Fran Walton felt it was important to note that the concerning post in Ridgefield had been brought to school authorities attention by a student.
“I want to emphasize how proud I am, how proud the board is, of the student who alerted the responsible adult about what they’d read,” Walton told The Press. “That’s what we ask of our students.”
In her letter to parents, Dr. Baldwin made a similar point.
“We live in turbulent times,” she said. “As adults and educators, our primary mission is to maintain the health and safety of all of our students and community members. While it is troubling that social media can become a forum for unmonitored and harmful messages, I am proud that we have created a school culture where students have trusted adults that they can turn to when they witness behavior that is unsafe or threatening.”
She added she was proud of the district’s teachers.
“Our teachers know how to report this behavior, and our partnership with the Ridgefield Police Department is strong and mutually supportive.”
Dr. Baldwin also urged parents to discuss the troubling events — and the responsible course of action, if concerned about something — with their kids.
“Please take the opportunity over these next several days to speak with your children about the adults in their lives that they can turn to if they have a problem, and assure them of our collective commitment to work together to keep our schools and community safe from acts of aggression and violence,” she wrote. “If you have questions or concerns related to your child’s safety and/or well-being at school, please contact your child’s building principal. “
The New York Time published a story Thursday reporting that 438 people have been shot, and 138 of the them killed, in more than 239 school shooting incidents since the Newtown tragedy took 26 lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.