Superintendent addresses texting and social media use during high school security incident

Superintendent Sandra Jones said students texting on social media and texting parents during the recent security scare created undue stress.

Prince Rupert School District superintendent Sandra Jones said students texting on social media and texting parents during the recent security scare created undue stress and concern.

Speaking at the Sept. 15 board meeting, Jones said the hold and secure went smoothly after a student received “disturbing emails” from a young man in the community with the one exception.

“What we didn’t do well enough was prevent students from texting an entering their thoughts on social media, which is not allowed during a hold and secure. Students texted their parents and caused alarm, which was completely unnecessary, and put things on social media that were made up in their heads,” she said.

“We were waiting for a call from the RCMP to say they had the young man and everything was good, but we had phone calls from many, many parents who were understandably upset and concerned, despite the fact there was nothing to worry about, and we couldn’t tell them anything at that point. It was a bit of a challenge.”

Trustee Terri-Lynne Huddlestone said the Sept. 11 incident showed the importance of the district providing correct and factual information to parents.

“In my workplace there was a lot of parents that were directly affected and word going around was quite concerning, only for them to find out later it wasn’t at all as serious as first thought,” she said.

Colleen Wiens of Charles Hays Secondary fielded many of the calls from concerned parents.

“With the calls that we took in the office, as soon as the parents knew that the students and staff were Ok, that everything was under control and that the students were being supervised, most were very understanding and said thank you. Some were not so understanding, we always get a few like that,” she said, noting factual information could have prevented a lot of the concern.

“They only heard or read what was posted wherever and once they were told it was under control they were alright. It was a good learning experience.”

Jones also reiterated the difference between a lockdown and a hold and secure, noting this incident did share some similarities due to resources available at the school.

“Hold and secure means that there might be a risk outside of the building, not inside the building. It would be like if there was a bear on the playground, we wouldn’t let students outside … it is different from a lockdown, which is an imminent threat in the building and everyone gets locked into their classroom. But we did keep students in their classroom for this one because we didn’t have a lot of staff to watch the exits, so it was erring on the side of caution,” she explained.

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