Today students of the McFarland School District, along with students nationwide, conducted a vigil in remembrance of the fallen students and staff in Parkland, FL. As requested by the students, the Department had a presence there to not only provide security, but also to support the peaceful and responsible manner in which our students chose to participate in the National Walk Out Day. The event went very well, and I'm proud of the manner in which our students came together to plan a well organized vigil.
Unfortunately, in the midst of the event we received information that originated from a parent, was conveyed to school staff and ultimately to us of a potential threat involving a firearm specifically relating to the event.
The Department took immediate action, discretely pulling aside a student (and out of view of the other students) whose name was initially mentioned as being involved, until the situation could be determined to be unfounded. There is no active threat at this time. I want to be clear that the student who was pulled aside was quickly determined not to be a threat in any way.
It's important for our community to understand we are not a department that is going to just say "Oh, well...I'm sure it's nothing" when this type of information is received. We are going to act immediately and swiftly in order to do everything in our power to protect our children.
I fully realize that this may not be popular with some parents, especially if the child pulled aside happens to be yours. Understand that in order to protect everyone's children, including yours, we have to take these situations seriously and act on the information. We cannot afford to simply dismiss it as a prank, and the information must be vetted out and swift action taken. Many times that information will prove to be unfounded, and in these situations it is unlikely that parents will be called prior to initially contacting the student, as time is of the essence.
Frankly, this is the message that students across the nation are sending today. They will not accept "Oh well, I'm sure it's nothing" responses from their government . They want to be taken seriously, and to feel safe in their schools. We intend to do everything in our power to provide that environment.
In today's situation, unfortunately the information changed hands several times prior to arriving with us. We support the "See something, say something" mentality, and encourage everyone to contact us immediately and directly with such information, as in this case we may have been able to vet this situation out prior to the event.
While we understand that this approach may ruffle some feathers, it is necessary in the world we live in today and we as a department are prepared to live with whatever criticism may come as a result.