More trust in Emerson's school educators and administrators might have prevented a viral firestorm about a supposed threat that wasn't as serious as some parents thought, School Supt. Brian Gatens said Saturday morning.
Gatens personally assured parents that the purported threat was never credible by not only sending a follow-up email to one issued a day earlier but by also going to work Saturday morning -- and inviting them all to come talk with him face-to-face.
Upset that police weren't immediately notified of a comment made by a 7th grader to gun down classmates and record them being killed, borough mom Stefanie El-Ansari posted a video on social media accusing Gatens and others of not taking the threat seriously -- and then lying about it to parents.
Gatens, in turn, said her reaction was an example of how "an out-of-context and overheard statement can mutate into so much more," emphasizing again that trained district officials fully investigated and determined there was no imminent threat to school safety or security.
Administrators and educators are "well-versed" in what credible threats look and sound like, the superintendent emphasized -- which is why, he said, the response in this particular instance didn't require an emergency call to police.
"We know what situations call for those responses," Gatens said in response to El-Ansari, who called police herself.
"What complicates this matter, and has added to the confusion, is that a parent reached out to the Emerson Police Department before the school administration did," Gatens said.
"The school district enjoys a strong relationship with the EPD, and we are grateful for their assistance in following up in this matter," he added in his Saturday morning email. "They are invaluable to our work in helping to foster safe and secure school environments."
The trouble stems from rumors and hearsay from adults both in person and online, which, Gatens said, cloud the facts, produce misinformation and inflame fears and anger unnecessarily.
The worst part of it, he said, is that it frightens students.
Then there is the child at the center of the storm.
The middle-schooler accused of making the alleged threat has become the victim of rumor-mongering and hate -- something he and his loved ones will have to deal with.
"We are a better community than that," Gatens said.
The superintendent then announced that he'd called his personal weekend plans and was headed to his office early Saturday to answer any and all questions directly from any parents who wished to come talk with him.
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