Castlegar’s mayor says parents potentially made a situation involving a threat at Stanley Humphries Secondary this week worse by exaggerating things through social media.
Maria McFaddin said she was among the parents who received an email from the school district that explained they had determined there was no real risk and the school would remain open.
“I thought they responded extremely quickly with proper information,” McFaddin said. “I appreciated that. My encouragement for the community is we have a degree of trust in those taking care of these things, because something that may have not even been an issue got out on social media and turned it a very big issue.”
Police later said a student allegedly threatened violence against other students online on Sunday, but didn’t go into more detail. They dealt with the student and officers were at the school on Monday and Tuesday.
McFaddin said the social media response “caused a lot of panic in a lot of young people that it didn’t need to. I know a lot of parents contributed to it. My encouragement to the community is to watch how we handle these things, because how we handle it sometimes escalates a situation.”
She urged people not to listen to the “rumor mill.”
“Unfortunately, I think that rumor mill made it much worse. I think that causes more trauma on our kids because I do trust [RCMP] and the schools to make sure if there is any level of risk they would have closed the school for the day. They chose not to.”
However, some councillors felt that while Stanley Humphries parents were notified promptly, other schools and the wider community should have been told sooner.
RCMP issued a news release at 11:08 a.m. on Monday and the school district shared the letter it sent to parents with the media at 1:17 p.m.
Sgt. Monty Taylor told council he wanted to get the information out immediately, but there was a delay because the media relations officer in Kelowna had the day off and he had to go higher up the chain of command.
“We actually had parents pull kids out of our school because they didn’t know,” said councillor Cherryl MacLeod, who works at Robson Community School.
“If it had gone out to all the schools or the whole community, it might have made it better or worse, but at least people could say they had the information. If we don’t get the correct information, people make up their own. Then it never goes well.”
Councillor Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff felt the RCMP’s news release was informative but Stanley Humphries was “very cryptic.”
“Lots of people at Castlegar Primary and Twin Rivers thought that information should be sent to them as well because they’re on the same [street],” she said.
Heaton-Sherstobitoff added there is “heightened awareness” because of gun violence in the US.
“This may be a good learning for the future. Let’s hope it never happens again because there were terrified parents and kids.”