NARRAGANSETT – Police cars and uniformed patrolmen greeted students at the doors to the high school this morning after social media sites buzzed Wednesday night with rumors that s shooting would occur.
According to a statement released this afternoon by Superintendent Katherine E. Sipala, the police presence was simply to inform parents and students that the threat was nothing more than a rumor.
“This morning, the presence of the Narragansett Police Department at Narragansett High School was to inform parents who were dropping off their children that the threat was in fact not accurate and that conditions at Narragansett High School were safe,” Sipala said in the statement.
Of the 495 students who attend Narragansett High School, 39 were absent today, or about 8 percent. Yesterday, 24 students were absent. However, tomorrow is a holiday for the school, and attendance rates are typically lower the day before and after a holiday.
Last Friday, an anonymous parent heard students talking about a possible shooting at the high school and immediately phoned the high school office.
“A parent heard her girls talking about this, phoned the high school and we then involved the police immediately, and then their investigation found that that the threat was not accurate,” Sipala said in an interview this afternoon.
“This week was a whole different thing,” Sipala added. “People talked on Facebook and Twitter – and we don’t monitor those, but we got phone calls, the police got phone calls last night as people heard about it, and the kids started talking again.”
According to Sipala, a male student is being bullied and accused of making the threats by his peers. Police exonerated him in an investigation.
This morning police were present to speak with students during a school-wide assembly with Principal Daniel F. Warner.
He informed them of the facts of the case and encouraged all students to not be part of rumors and innuendo and to inform staff immediately when they hear something disturbing about a fellow student.
According to the press release, the student has been absent from school for several days.
“We are a really active school in terms making [anti-bullying] a part of school life at all times and working on it in so many different ways,” Sipala said. “The police were at school all day today, just like last Friday, to talk to the kids involved in the rumor piece – not one person, several – and working with them to get them to recognize what a disservice this was and maybe becoming involved in our ACT group.”
The ACT group is a team of students, parent and teachers at the high school. The acronym stands for Accept, Change and Tolerate. The past two years, the team has fostered discussions about how people treat one another, to what extent differences are accepted and to brainstorm ideas about how to make our school and community a kinder and safer place for all.
Sipala said no individual students would be suspended or reprimanded for spreading the rumors via social media or otherwise.
“So many people were on Twitter last night that it would be inappropriate for the school to have students suspended for being on Twitter,” she said. “We are working to have the students [who were a part of the problem] be a part of the solutions.”