As the parents of the student referenced in the recent Standard Press articles regarding the rumored threat at Burlington High School we felt that more details are needed about the situation and how it was handled.
We think the district failed to mention important information leading up to the posting on Facebook. We also feel no parent would want their child to be treated the way that our daughter was by the administration at BHS and the district.
Any parent in the district should be appalled that three days after the shootings in Connecticut a group of students (our daughter included) brought to the attention of a teacher concerns about rumors of a shooting planned for BHS on Friday, Dec. 21. The teacher took no action. He informed no one.
The teacher’s answer to the students? “I can neither confirm nor deny that.” What kind of an answer is that? This only led the students to think that the staff did know something and couldn’t talk about it. The teacher also joked that maybe there would be a snow day on Friday and no one would be there anyway.
Were these rumors real? We all can feel they weren’t (and this, in fact, turned out to be the case). However in today’s day and age how can you not be concerned and at least take it somewhat seriously.
Part of the school’s comments to our daughter were that she was irresponsible. Was it also not irresponsible, maybe even more so, that this teacher did nothing?
On Dec. 17 our daughter heard rumors from a friend at school about a shooting planned for the 21st. Also, that the guns were already at the school so if any searches were done as students arrived they wouldn’t find anything. Our daughter and her friends were discussing this at lunch and approached a teacher as stated at the beginning of our letter.
Based on that teacher’s response the students were still concerned. Our daughter talked more with her friends and also informed another parent on the way home from school. That parent said she would be calling the school. Our daughter also informed us when she got home. We told her to let us know what the other mom found out and assured her we would probably be hearing from the district via email or letter since we figured the staff knew about it based on the teacher’s comments. We also planned on calling the school in the morning.
Before going to bed our daughter put one question on Facebook addressed to her peers “So is there really a shooting threat for BHS on Friday or is that just a rumor?”
When she arrived at school she was immediately sent to the office for what turned out to be an interrogation that lasted for four and a half hours. Sure it was proper for our daughter to be questioned but not in the manner that it turned out to be. A criminal arrested by the police has more rights than our daughter seemed to have.
She was questioned first by a vice principal and her counselor. Then by Principal Eric Burling and three police officers They were harsh, raising their voices, telling her how she had poor judgment, how they were very disappointed in her, and how there was going to be serious consequences because of this.
She was very scared and upset. She texted her mom and told her what was going on.
Mom called the school and asked to talk to someone about what was happening. She was told they were in a meeting but they would be given the message as soon as the doors opened.
After the meeting ended our daughter was asked if she had contacted her mom. She said she had and had her phone ripped out of her hands. Still nobody called her parents.
She was then moved to ISS (in school suspension). While there she asked to use the phone to call her mom. The staff person said yes but first had to hook up a device to the phone. My daughter believes the phone call to her mother was recorded!
Sometime after this a vice principal finally called her mom and asked her to come to school to discuss comments that our daughter had placed on Facebook.
Our daughter also was not allowed to go to her locker by herself for homework. She had to be escorted. Her mother had asked for homework to be provided but the staff did not do this. Our daughter also did not go to the bathroom because she would have to be escorted for this.
Upon her mother’s arrival Principal Burling briefly met with her and told her that the information our daughter told a teacher was not credible because she did not tell him enough information.
Our daughter and her friends told him they heard of a threat that was to take place on Friday. What more did they need to say?
The mother then met with Mr. Burling, a detective and Peter Smet, the school superintendent. She explained that from a 15-year-old’s point of view kids (and adults, as well) post many things on Facebook. It wasn’t meant to start a rumor as the rumors were already out amongst the students. They also see this as communicating with their immediate circle not everyone else out there.
Prior to this meeting our daughter cooperated fully. She answered all their questions, told them everything she knew, logged into her Facebook so they could read and review it. They called many other students down and found that she had not made up the rumors and did trace back where the rumors originated.
During the meeting the principal still continued to try to get our daughter to say she made parts of it up even though it was already clear that she hadn’t. Towards the end of the meeting Mr. Burling even stated to our daughter, “I have to deal with you for the next two and a half years. What can I expect?”
After investigating and determining the threat was not real they never informed our daughter of this to ease her fears. All this time she thought it was still real.
The district was very concerned that the information not get out to the public, especially as her Facebook post had been seen by reporter Jennifer Eisenbart (she is friends with my daughter through their involvement with the Haylofters). It is our understanding that Ms. Eisenbart was treated rather harshly by both school and law enforcement officials because of this.
The letter that went home from the school states: student posted on Facebook a message and that parents should discuss the importance of the appropriate use of social media. Share with them the importance that this concern should have been brought to adults, teachers, or the police and not posted on Facebook and if they ever are concerned about anything they need to seek out an adult. Posting on Facebook, Twitter, texting, etc., is the inappropriate venue for something of this nature.
It does not mention that a teacher was informed during the school day prior to this question being posted. These girls did exactly what they were supposed to do. It appears the district does not want the public to know that a teacher was informed.
It seems like the district wants to blame this whole situation on our daughter’s one question on Facebook when that is simply not true. They clearly know that this information was out among the student body prior to the post.
We are unhappy with the way this was handled and with the way our daughter was treated. We can’t believe that we weren’t contacted right away when our daughter was being questioned by the police.
Once all their questions were answered and she told them that she had informed a teacher her interrogation should have ended, not gone on for hours. There was no need for phones being ripped out of hands, recorded phone calls, in-school suspension, escorts to her locker and just the harsh treatment in general.
Our daughter did not commit a crime. She wasn’t a suspect. Why didn’t the professionals act professional?
Eric and Cathy Haglund,