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In the city
Rumours threaten school safety
By Brendan Howe
In the wake of fatal high school shootings in both Littleton, Colorado and Taber, Alberta, some parents of London high school students have become afraid to send their children to class.
While city schools have yet to receive a substantiated threat, rumours circulating among students have caught the attention of London police, parents and school administrators.
Rebecca Howse, the principal of Oakridge Secondary School, said the school is operating under a "business as usual" attitude despite rumours spreading about possible threats. She explained each time the school is alerted of a threat it is investigated quite thoroughly, but there is still concern.
"Just below the surface there is a noticeable level of fear," she said, adding this is being dealt with through announcements and significant class discussions. "You don't want to start having assemblies about these things because you feed the fear."
She explained there was a "stupid" rumour which surfaced on April 22, two days after the shooting in Colorado which claimed the lives of 15 people. Students were saying there was an internet site with the message "If you think Denver was bad, wait until you see what will happen to Oakridge."
Howse said the police were contacted but no internet site was found.
Const. Tracy Frizzel, media relations officer for the London police, said they have been contacted about rumours but are unable to track down source. She would not say which of the city's schools have had rumours circulating but said there are several from which they have received calls.
She added concern among parents has been evident. "We had received several phone calls from people inquiring whether or not to send their kids to school.
"It's not our position to tell either staff at schools or parents what decisions they should be making."
She also added London police's street crime unit has been working closely with schools but have yet to find a substantiated threat. "We haven't had any actual incidents where a bomb or explosive device has been found on school property."
The most recent rumour says May 26 will be the date of alleged action, she added. However, five rumoured dates have already passed without incident.
"We're taking this seriously. If anybody finds anything they are letting us know."
Cathy Harding, the parent of a Grade 12 student at Oakridge, said she was never concerned before the incident in Littleton, but is now. "I've already told my daughter if she doesn't want to come to school on May 26 that's fine with me."
Grade 10 student Dave Laidlaw was not as concerned with the potential threat but said more attention should be paid to it. "Oakridge is known as a goody-two-shoes type of school and that school down in Littleton was the same way, so it sort of makes you think."
Graham Brown, principal at H.B. Beal Secondary School, explained teachers have been encouraged to listen to students' concerns and counselling is offered, but the general feeling at the school is a relaxed one.
"My policy here at the school is to keep the lines of communication open and dialogue open."