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Roughly 36 hours. That’s how long it took from the time police took into custody a middle school student suspected of creating a hit list before school officials determined it was OK for you to know about it.
That’s inexcusable. When something this serious happens, the district should set aside this pervasive and somewhat odd desire it has developed of late to control every ounce of information that gets out and simply let people know what’s going on.
Here’s how it went down. On Tuesday officials get word of a hit list, and work nearly overnight with police to find its suspected creator.
The suspect arrives to school on a bus Wednesday morning, is taken into custody and charged with 32 felony counts of terroristic threatening.
The media catch wind of the charges Thursday morning, and stories here and in Lexington are posted on websites and broadcast throughout the day.
It’s not until the district and school offices are closed for the evening (hardly a coincidence) that the public is notified, and then only by yet another of the district’s incessant — and frequently unnecessary — automated phone messages.
And they wonder why people are upset?
When we first approached a principal Thursday afternoon, she wasn’t particularly happy that we and other media outlets found out about the hit list because, she said, it was still under investigation.
Of course it is, but the fact that a person, even a minor, has been charged with a crime is public information, whether the district likes it or not.
And, like it or not, people within, around and outside of the school district are going to start talking, particularly when something as disturbing as a hit list is uncovered.
That’s going to be news every time, and the sooner the district can wrap its head around that fact, the better off its officials, and the people paying them, will be.
Consider how this should have been done, and the benefit to all involved.
Had the district led from the front on this, alerted the media, sent out a pre-recorded phone message, and assured the public that the children were safe, the district could have looked professional, responsible and in total control of a tough situation.
The public, instead of getting information in dribs and drabs, would have been spared any concerns that surfaced and not had to worry about their family members inside that building.
Sometimes even school districts need to be taught a lesson. Let’s hope they’ve learned it.
While on this subject, please know that we aren’t going to quibble with the district over semantics. Its take is that the suspect wasn’t “arrested” doesn’t fly with us, because when anyone, child or adult, is charged with 32 felonies, that person is under arrest.
Nor are we going to quibble over him being taken into custody vs. the preferred term “protective custody.”
Another complaint we’ve heard is that the child was allowed to ride a school bus after being identified as the creator of the hit list.
The short answer is that school officials have much more authority on than off school property, and that taking the child into custody there was much easier.
Those concerned should also know that the Lawrenceburg police were watching the bus closely, and weren’t about to let the child do anything bad before arriving to school.