School quells rumors of Columbine-like attack
RIFLE – An elaborate game of telephone took the blame for widespread rumors of an imminent Columbine-like attack at Rifle Middle School this week.The school sent students home with letters Tuesday explaining to parents there was no real threat and rumors were at fault for any unease at the school. Vice principal Lara Disney said the rumors began Thursday. “We had a group of young ladies. They asked questions of other students and got answers that were concerning, then talked about it amongst their group and then to another group,” Disney said. “It spread like wildfire, and there was information added along the way.”Disney said she couldn’t be any more specific about what was said in the initial conversation because she had to protect student confidentiality. But the rumors led to worry there could be a shooting at Rifle Middle School.Disney said she conducted almost 40 interviews with students between Thursday and Monday afternoon.”We didn’t feel it was a valid threat,” Disney said. “It was just kids saying stupid things.”Garfield Re-2 superintendent Gary Pack said there were no threats or weapons, nothing that would require suspension or expulsion according to district policy.Still, Disney said the rumors were enough to put students and parents on edge. She said several parents kept their kids home from school Monday.She said that was one reason the school administration sent letters home with students. “We just decided to be proactive and address this rather than let the situation continue to blow up,” Disney said.Some parents were concerned enough to call the local police about the rumor. Rifle police chief Daryl Meisner said his staff began to receive calls from parents Monday night. But, he said, no one called with firsthand information, only news of the rumor.”At this point we don’t even have anyone to talk to,” Meisner said. “It’s hard to start an investigation without a witness. The school didn’t give us any names. They told us there is nothing to worry about and it’s all rumor. If there was anything that sounded like a credible threat, I would hope they would call us.”Also in response to the rumor, Disney and school security guard Shelly Gardineer went to each classroom to discuss the issue, quell the rumor and explain the consequences for dangerous behavior. Disney said they also encouraged students to go to administrators or teachers if they think something is worrisome.”Our first concern is student safety,” Disney said. “If the girls (who started the rumor) had come to us prior to talking to their friends, this whole situation could have been avoided.”
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