The provocative lead sentences in the Lake Wylie Pilot’s May 20 editorial, “School should address attack,” makes false assumptions and, in doing so, asserts Clover High School and the district do not have measures to protect students and monitor campuses to ensure students are safe. The editorial also claims “Clover school officials have refused to come up with answers” (to the provocative lead sentences).
The assertions are simply not true.
No employee of the Lake Wylie Pilot contacted the district to verify information in the editorial and accompanying front-page article picked up from its sister newspaper, The Herald. Verification of facts is a founding principle of the most basic journalism. I can hear the voice of one of my college professors in a news writing class saying, “In this business, we don’t even trust our mothers.” The quip conveys that all sources should be properly vetted. The editorial board failed in this basic tenant of fair and honest journalism.
A story that previously appeared in The Herald regarding the arrested student was published on the Pilot’s front page. Meanwhile, the announcement of Clover High’s Christy Wilson, named National Family and Consumer Sciences Teacher of the Year, was relegated to the back page of Section B. When presented with an opportunity to highlight this tremendous achievement of one of the community’s public servants, this local paper chose a negative story that is not reflective of Clover High School or Clover School District.
Parents send to us each day their children with the expectation they be provided a safe and nurturing learning environment. Clover School District strives to meet this expectation on a daily basis. An isolated altercation by one student in a district of nearly 6,800 students is not reflective of our student body or the efforts by our more than 500 employees, who strive to teach and model what it means to be of high character and how to show compassion and respect for fellow students, employees, and families.
Students in all grades participate in character education programs, and each school has an emphasis on teaching students how to be responsible citizens. Character education is a learning process that enables students and adults in a school community to understand, care about and act on core ethical values. For instance, all students at Kinard Elementary are involved in Steven Covey’s “Leader in Me” initiative that teaches children about accountability, goal setting, courage and understanding, cooperation with peers and health. At Clover Middle, Oakridge Middle and Clover High, students are involved in service-learning initiatives and Rachel’s Challenge. Students learn these traits through the academic environment and curriculum, school-wide initiatives, and service clubs and community involvement.
• “Where were the Clover High School teachers?” This question insinuates that at the time of the altercation, students were under no direct supervision. This is false. It is an expectation that teachers monitor the hallway area outside their classrooms each morning. On the morning of May 13, teachers and other staff in the area in which the altercation occurred were in position. There is a flaw in the assertion that the presence of adults would have prevented or deterred this altercation. Using the same logic, we should be able to assume that by having a police force, crimes would not occur. We recognize this is simply not the case in schools or society.
• “Will students who videotaped the attack be held accountable?” Yes, but due to student privacy laws, the discipline of students cannot be made public. Reporters know this, yet ask for comment following an incident knowing the district cannot disclose student discipline. This information was shared in conversations with the media, including the reporter who wrote the front-page story in the Lake Wylie Pilot, on the evening of the altercation.
• “Why did it take so long to inform parents about the attack?” In situations such as what occurred at CHS, school officials’ immediate and primary focus becomes the safety of the injured student and isolating individuals involved. This is exactly what happened. Given the nature of the altercation, school officials began their investigation and assisted law enforcement with its investigation. By 8:30 a.m. the injured student was en route to Carolinas Medical Center and other students involved were detained with supervision. By approximately 10:30 a.m., the student had been taken into custody of the York County Sheriff’s Office. During this two-hour window, school officials were in contact with both families immediately involved, and CHS Principal Dr. Mark Hopkins was at the hospital with the injured student and his family. Other school and district-level officials remained on campus to maintain daily operations with student safety paramount.
• Was there further risk of student safety being compromised? No. Was the situation controlled? Yes. Had the families involved been contacted? Yes. Had the parents or guardians of witnesses been contacted? Yes. Was a criminal investigation in process? Yes. Can the school disclose details of a fight? No. Can the school disclose how students involved are being disciplined? Not directly, but our discipline policy can be referenced.
These are some of the questions asked internally when deciding how and when to notify parents. While there is no fail-safe protocol, the district does have in place processes to notify parents during emergency situations such as active assailant, bomb threat, weather-related and other natural disasters, transportation accidents, evacuations and a host of other scenarios.
Following an incident, we are able to evaluate and assess how a situation can be prevented and how and when messages are communicated to our families.
Mychal Frost is the public information officer for the Clover School District.