Athens ISD Superintendent Blake Stiles on Friday said there is no substance to rumored threats of violence on a district campus.
On Thursday, rumors began swirling on social media sites including Facebook about an alleged threat of violence to students on Friday — the last day of classes for the district before Christmas break.
Fueled by lingering fear stemming from the Dec. 14 shooting deaths of 20 elementary school students and six teachers in Newtown, Conn., participants involved in the conversation began questioning local school safety. Some said they planned to hold their children out of school Friday.
AISD officials were made aware of the rumors Thursday evening, and after careful consideration, Stiles addressed the matter with a statement on the district’s website, athensisd.net.
Stiles’ statement read:
“At this time, no threats have been confirmed against any Athens ISD campus.
However, for precautionary measures, extra security will be posted on each campus Friday, December 21st. Our number one priority is our students' safety.”
Indeed, parents and students noticed an increase in security as they arrived at school Friday. Stiles said several people were relieved by the increased presence of law enforcement and thanked the district for taking that step.
Most importantly, the school day ended in a most uneventful way — which was just fine with administrators.
“Tensions were high, and we wanted to ease those tensions and let people know it’s OK to bring your kids to school,” Stiles said. We hope we’ve accomplished that.
“It’s a crazy time for our schools anyway, but it’s been pretty calm,” Stiles added. “We’ve had no incidents.”
Stiles said the he felt the rumors were fueled by a previous incident the district investigated in conjuction with the Athens Police Department. That investigation yielded no evidence that a “credible” threat had been made against the district.
“We obviously had to take it seriously and look into it,” Stiles said. “That’s the thing about social media. It can be great, but it can also make the process (of faulty information being spread) even faster.”