4J and Bethel add one-day extra police patrols, attendance drops

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Updated: 12/24/2012 1:42 pm
EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) -- After a week of heightened awareness from a wave of rumors and threats of violence at Eugene and Bethel Schools, the districts are on winter break following a calm day in the classroom.

Now attention is turned toward moving forward from student rumor mongering and false threats. 4J and Bethel School Districts and Eugene Police released a joint statement earlier this week saying that the end of the world rumor from the Mayan calendar and the recent Connecticut school shooting has led to students spreading rumors of school violence through social media.

In response, Eugene Police added extra patrols to many Eugene and Bethel school campuses today. No problems or incidents were reported.

Police wouldn’t specify how many extra officers were out on school patrol, nor would they give any information about how exactly the officers were working.

However, one of the elements of their work, outreach, was obvious to everyone. Eugene Police says if anything, today has helped students, teachers and parents make more of a connection.

"It's nice to be a School Resource Officer (SRO) for a day. Many of us volunteer in the schools also and we're glad to be able to do something here while we're at work as well,” said Lieutenant Doug Mozan of the Eugene Police Department.

NewsSource 16 spoke to several parents who said they appreciated the extra officers at schools on Friday.

"I would much rather see a few officers here at school than . . . some people saying that teachers should be armed and stuff like that. I'd much rather see police officers in school and that definitely makes me feel more comfortable as a parent,” said Bridget Adam, a mother of two.

Over at Sheldon High School, students say everything was okay on Friday.

"I'm not really worried about anything happening here because we've got pretty good officers and a pretty safe environment here,” said Noah Savage, a student at Sheldon High School.

Eugene 4J says if anything can be learned from the situation, it’s that no matter what, any threat of violence is serious.

“It's really important for young people to know that anything that they say that could constitute a threat to school security, to school safety, is taken very seriously and it's important for parents to be aware of that as well,” says Kerry Delf, Communications Coordinator for Eugene 4J.

4J says this is one of the first times it has dealt with school threats through social media. Parents and students should know that just because the way people communicate has changed doesn't make any threat less serious.

“Whether it’s in social media, or email or a conversation with a friend, sometimes a person will think it's funny or a casual comment that they can make to talk about something that may relate to violence. It's not funny and it is serious and schools and police both follow up on it as seriously as if it were completely real, even if it were not intended that way,” says Delf.

Attendance was a lot lower than normal 4J school days. About half of 4J’s high school students missed one or more classes today. Last year on the day before winter break, only about a quarter of the student body missed one or more classes. Middle school attendance was also lower for 4J. Elementary school attendance was not available to check.

Bethel says about 31 percent of its students missed class on Friday.
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