Gun incident is teaching moment for parents, students, says CCMS principal

If there’s a real lesson in the confusion following an incident a week ago Monday at the Culver Community Middle School, it’s not so much in how to deal with students bringing a gun to school -- which didn’t, in fact, happen -- as it is an opportunity for parents and students alike to become better and more informed “digital citizens.”
As was explained to parents in an email sent by the school last Thursday, CCMS principal Julie Berndt says the incident had its origins in two students’ arguments on the social networking website Facebook, which eventually led to the implication that one might bring a gun to school on Monday.
A student involved in the incident brought it to Berndt’s attention Monday morning before school, and action was taken immediately, she says.
“Nothing was found,” says Berndt. “The two who were involved -- we didn’t know at the time that there was a third -- were down at the school office until I contacted their parents during the day.”
The police were called (they did a follow-up visit the next day as well), as was Culver Community High School principal Albert Hanselman, who heads up safety for the schools.
Berndt points out the students were in the office and safety ensured before school had even started Monday morning.
“We knew within minutes (everyone was safe). Then it was a matter of, how did it all come about and why? How it happened and who did what.”
The incident, she says, has the characteristics of a one-time situation in which tempers flared and words were exchanged without immediate thought to their consequences, which she feels is an important teaching moment for students and parents alike.
“It’s really easy in writing to say things that normally you wouldn’t say,” she notes. “I think it’s an important thing with texting and social networks to know those aren’t places for accurate information.”
That may go for adults as well as students. The school, Berndt says, received four phone calls and two emails asking about the incident, but rumors were already spreading -- some via social networks -- and information was sometimes inaccurate. That’s part of what prompted Berndt to send all middle school parents an email Thursday morning to clarify the matter, though inaccuracies have still persisted in the “virtual” world.
Berndt encourages parents to call, email, or stop by the school with any questions, “to get the facts.” She also assures parents the school has a thorough safety policy anticipating incidents of genuine concern.
“Had there been an obvious danger, we would have followed safety measures. We have “Emergency Procedures” safety manuals that we follow with regards to who to contact and what to do.”
Berndt and teachers at the school used the matter as fodder for conversation and guidance last Friday, as teachers discussed it with students and emphasized the importance of thinking through what’s posted online or texted. She also hopes parents will take an active interest in monitoring their children’s use of technology, communicate with them, and be aware of who they’re speaking to and how.