Whatever term you use – the law-enforcement phrase “lockdown” or the school superintendent’s preferred “shelter in place” – both of Rappahannock County’s schools were in the middle of it for about 30 minutes two weeks ago.
Two days after Rappahannock County Elementary School parents received a letter sent home by principal Cathy Jones April 29 informing them that a child reported that another student, reportedly a fourth-grader, had “said he/she was going to and/or had brought a firearm to school,” another, older student at the high school posted a comment to a social media site. (Facebook is a social media site, though no one will say if that’s where the comment appeared.) A parent reading the post that afternoon interpreted it as threatening and notified the school.
“As a precaution,” said interim schools superintendent Kathleen Grove this week, “just because we had not investigated, both of the schools were secured.”
“I’m not a big fan of the word ‘lockdown,’ ” Grove said, “because of its association with prisons. We instituted our shelter-in-place procedure. The classrooms were secured, and the Sheriff’s Office was called.”
Sheriff’s investigators quickly determined who posted the comment, and that it was not meant to be threatening but was merely a comment on the earlier incident at the elementary school. Sheriff Connie Smith “did speak with the student,” Grove said. “Students need to understand that remarks like this that they post impulsively have repercussions.”
At the elementary school, after a sheriff’s deputy and administrators met the child’s bus on arrival the day after the student’s report of the gun comment, and searched the child’s backpack and found no weapon, “appropriate disciplinary action” was taken. “The child is not present at school,” Jones said in her letter to parents and staff.
Grove, constrained by privacy laws, would not elaborate.
“It’s important to acknowledge that children use poor judgement,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons why they’re . . . in school.”