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Rumors of violence kept FHS quiet Friday

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Sometimes, kids say the darndest things. And sometimes those things get blown out of proportion and cause some really big problems.

That's what happened at Farmington High School over the past couple of weeks - a few students had some arguments. Harsh words were spoken. Some of those words were misconstrued. Interpretations were made. Comments were posted on the Internet, and before long, the rumor of a planned school shooting surfaced.

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It turned out to be nothing more than a rumor, but it gained a force of its own simply because teens started sharing pieces of "news" amongst their classmates. The words were troubling, but after a week of interviewing the students involved and talking to their parents, school administrators were relatively confident nothing was going to come from the rumor.

Despite the best assurances from principal Ben Kusch, some parents did see fit to excuse their teens from school on Friday. Attendance was down, Kusch said, which means some parents still had concerns.

"It was a very troubling series of events. There were some young men who said some pretty foolish things. The rumors that developed from those facts, I'm troubled to say, had an impact on the school. It raised parent concerns of if school was a safe place to be," Kusch said.

But school should be a safe place, he said. And it is. And that's why Kusch and the school administration will have a debriefing of sorts for parents this week.

The parent meeting is set for Thursday at the high school. In that meeting, Kusch hopes to address some of the parent concerns that have arisen over the recent rumors. Moreover, he wants to learn how the school administration can improve communication with parents.

"Part of the meeting is to be proactive and mitigate some of the duress that folks felt," he said. "We don't want to relive the last two weeks, but we're always looking for ways to improve communication between the parents and the school."

There are procedures in place that are set into motion when an incident starts to look like it could become something bigger than just a few words. Those procedures were followed last week. Some of those procedures will be reviewed during Thursday's meeting.

"That's another purpose of the meeting," Kusch said. "To raise awareness of the measures we take to maintain a healthy and safe environment."

Technology

Computers and cell phones played a big role in last week's scare. Without Facebook, the perceived threat would not have spread as fast. Without e-mails, Kusch would not have been able to contact as many parents as quickly as he had, either.

"If there's a positive, it's that it's been a source of a lot of learning for both parents and the school. We learned things that we did well in the high school in terms of getting information out to parents in a quick and thorough manner. But we also learned about the impact that social networks have," he said.

The whole situation is causing school administration, and even district administration, to look at the technology use policies in place and determine what, if anything, needs to be changed for the future.

"In this day of technology, it doesn't take much to get word out to 500 of your closest friends," Kusch said.

The parent meeting will be held from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the Large Lecture Hall of Farmington High School. Parents who have questions but are not able to attend can contact Kusch at the school, 651-252-2502, or through his e-mail, bkusch@farmington.k12.mn.us.

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Michelle Leonard
Michelle Leonard started covering the Farmington community in June, 1994. Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the Farmington American Legion Auxiliary Unit 189, and acts as the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 
(651) 460-6606
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