Students stay home in droves after rumors spread online

March 1, 2018

Hundreds of Brownfield ISD students stayed home Tuesday after rumors of a threat to the High School ran rampant on social media platforms over the weekend.

Attendance was down markedly at every grade level on each campus Tuesday, despite a call to all parents Monday night from BISD Interim Superintendent Kelly Baggett, assuring them their children were safe.

In the recorded statement, Baggett said, “The District recently received information that a student made a threatening comment about doing harm to other students at the High School. The alleged threat indicated that the harm would occur on Tuesday, February 27. Upon receipt of the information, the High School administration immediately reported the matter to the District’s School Resource Officer, who, in turn, reported it to the Brownfield Police Department. The Brownfield Police Department has conducted an investigation into the matter, and has determined that the comments are not credible and do not present a safety threat to any students at Brownfield ISD.”

Baggett told the Brownfield News on Tuesday that the situation justified the investigation that occurred, but added that rumor and innuendo escalated the rhetoric and caused students and parents further concern.

“We worked all day Monday to work through this and sort it out, which is why the call out was so late,” he said. “The students involved have been interviewed and will face disciplinary measures that I am not allowed by law to discuss, but they and their parents are aware of the severity of their actions.”

The school district statement continued that in today’s climate, the Brownfield ISD administration is extremely sensitive to every threat made against the school and wants to keep an open line of communication with the parents and students the district serves.

The incident began last week when two female BHS students traded a written note detailing a threat they overheard made by a male student several months ago.

A photo of the note was posted to social media and the information, rumor, and worry quickly spread.

Social media buzzed with concerned parents and students through the weekend, culminating with Tuesday’s dip in attendance.

Information obtained by the Brownfield News through open records requests show that Tuesday’s attendance at the High School was just 64 percent of enrollment, more than 30 percent below average.

A regular school day sees attendance above 95 percent and the three weeks when the district was hit hardest with flu absences dipped to just 87 percent attendance.

Official numbers were not obtained at other BISD campuses, but administrators reported far more absences than normal because of the situation.

Baggett said student safety is the district’s paramount concern and he wants parents to feel confident in their care while on BISD campuses.

He also asked for parents’ help in educating their children about social media use and legal consequences.

“We’re doing our part to let these kids know you have to be conscious of what you say and what you put online and that you can’t joke or say things that threaten someone else,” he said. “But that has got to start at home. Social media is the norm and it’s how this generation of kids communicates, but it can be dangerous with serious consequences when used inappropriately. Even our employees have to be careful how they use social media and we have policies to that effect. We can not afford to become complacent.”

The interim superintendent praised local law enforcement for their work in this matter and in their daily dealings with BISD and its student body.

“They have all been cordial and helpful and willing to do whatever they can to help us out,” he said. “They take their jobs and the safety of our school district and our community as a whole very seriously.”

Baggett said his main point to the community is that Brownfield schools are as safe as they can be and he promised to continue to address any concerns students or parents might have.

Brownfield Police Chief Tony Serbantez confirmed to the News on Tuesday that his department spent considerable time and effort investigating the situation throughout the weekend and all day Monday.

Numerous juveniles were interviewed, however none were arrested, because no credible threat was ever made. Rather, only third party hearsay was relayed via social media as “fact.”

“We are thankful to the citizens that called with concerns about this,” the Chief said. “We take these type of reports seriously and we will use all our resources to disrupt or dismantle anyone’s plans to harm others in our schools. If there is a known real threat or information of one, it is important to report it as soon as possible directly to officials.”

Serbantez said in today’s environment, these types of threats can occur anytime and anywhere.

“We can no longer think it cannot happen here,” he said. “I appreciate the concerns and the information from the community that helped us resolve this situation.” 

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Category: Updates