I am aware and deeply concerned of how social media posts can fuel fear and disrupt our students and our schools. -- Dr. Joan Mast (Nov. 11, 2019)
SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- Following safety concerns of students and parents that prompted absences on Monday, Scotch Plains-Fanwood Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joan Mast issued a letter explaining the decision to keep schools open.
Fear stemmed from a social media post in which a Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School freshman posted a photo of himself in blackface in front of a Confederate flag.
According to police sources and Dr. Mast, officials concluded that "a threat was never made to any Scotch Plains-Fanwood schools." She also asked parents: "Please understand that administration would not open schools if we had not carefully discerned the risk to students and staff."
Dr. Mast also wrote that "misinformation from a variety of sources was conveyed through social media indicating the so-called threat."
November 11, 2019
The purpose of this correspondence is to reaffirm our commitment, in working alongside with the Scotch Plains and Fanwood Police Departments and community leaders, to keep our students, our staff and our schools safe. On November 10th it came to the attention of the Scotch Plains Police Department that a controversial photo had been posted on social media.
Consequently, I was advised of an alleged threat on social media. The alleged threat was assessed and found to be false. However, I am aware and deeply concerned of how social media posts can fuel fear and disrupt our students and our schools.
We take all reports seriously, gathering as much information as possible and assessing the nature of any and all threats. Due to our outstanding working relationship with both the Scotch Plains and Fanwood Police Departments we have concluded that a threat was never made to any Scotch Plains-Fanwood schools. Instead, misinformation from a variety of sources was conveyed through social media indicating the so-called threat.
When there is a question about the behavior of a particular student(s), I know it is frustrating that the district cannot answer specific questions. All our staff members are bound by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Please understand that administration would not open schools if we had not carefully discerned the risk to students and staff.
Unfortunately, this is not the first demonstration of hateful speech we have seen. Last year, when the high school was graffitied with racial slurs we were reminded of how the hateful voices of few can hurt so many. Today we reaffirm our commitment to listening to student voice through our student leadership groups. Together with the Board of Education we continue to work hand in hand, with the Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Coalition, in partnership with both towns, to create a fair and safe community for all residents.
Additionally, in conjunction with our police departments we are planning parent workshops on social media awareness to highlight the importance of responsible use of social media.
Joan V. Mast, Superintendent of Schools
Dr. Mast copied Scotch Plains Pollice Chief Ted Conley, Fanwood Police Chief Richard Trigo, Board of Education Presidnent Dr. Karen Kulikowski, and SPFHS Principal Dr. Heisey.
Chief Conley spoke with TAPintoSPF earlier in the day and said that his department had a larger than normal presence at the high school to help alleviate concerns that might have had about sending their children to school on Monday.
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