Friday, April 20, 2007

Hysteria after student notes disliked classmates

Sun-Sentinal, April 19 2007

BOCA RATON -- Spanish River High School phones were clogged on Thursday with calls from parents concerned about security after a male student on Wednesday pointed out people in the yearbook he liked and didn't like.

The 18-year-old student was removed from school Wednesday and will not return, said principal Constance Tuman-Rugg.

In a nation shaken to the core by a gunman at Virginia Tech who took the lives of 32 people and then himself, add Hitler's birthday and the anniversary of the Columbine High School killings on Friday.

"In the four years I've been at a high school, this happens on April 20," said Tuman-Rugg. "It's not just this year or this boy. Watching the images on TV, I do understand the parents' concerns, but we have to encourage people to separate fact from exaggeration and not panic."

Rumors continue to fly today, but nothing more than the comments about the yearbook could be documented first-hand, the principal said.

School police searched the home of the student, who is a senior, with the cooperation of this mother. Police found no evidence of danger at the home, the principal said.

"Nothing was found, no letters, no lists, nothing," Tuman-Rugg said.

Parent Crystal Palmquist of Boca Raton said her two sons begged her not to attend school on today because they fear for their safety. She said Allan, 16, and Harrison, 15, both ninth-graders, believe a threat against students is real.

They told their mother they're sure that one classmate has a list of targeted student victims.

"You can't take these things lightly," said Palmquist, who decided to keep her children home. She wants more assurances from the school that there is no danger to the students.

Extra school police are on duty at Spanish River today and tomorrow, the principal said. She made announcements at school and sent a recorded phone message to parents last night to assure families of the security of the campus.

Of the school's 2,200 students, 132 were absent today, within the usual range of 130-150, the principal said.

"We're all very upset about what happened at Virginia Tech, but I'm not a mom who gets overly alarmed," said Suzy Chevrier, who has two daughters who attend Spanish River. "Every time there's a shooting or a bomb scare there are copycat threats, and there's danger in not paying attention. But I don't think it's good to overreact."

I don't think there's much I can say here. This is probably the most extreme example of kneejerk panic that I've ever seen. That, or the kids (15 and 16, and freshmen?) saw an easy way to skip a few days from school and their gullible parents let them.

I hope the senior gets to walk at graduation with his classmates.

No comments: