School districts address concerns about clowns, safety

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School districts address concerns about clowns, safety

4:50 p.m. PDT October 7, 2016

The ‘scary clown’ phenomenon has put some local school districts, students and families on guard.

Rumors have circulated via social media about people dressing as clowns and threatening or committing violent behavior, and some students and parents are saying they may take matters into their own hands.

Local school districts have taken precautionary measures to assure the safety of their students. Many school districts are working with law enforcement officials to be more visible in schools.

The districts are encouraging families to have a discussion about safety and appropriate behaviors in schools and responsible posting on social media.

Salem-Keizer School District

A rumor was reported Friday to the Statesman Journal that the North Salem v. South Salem high school football game, scheduled for Friday night at North Salem, was going to be cancelled due to clown-related threats.

District spokesman Jay Remy said the game is still on, and athletic directors from both schools confirmed that.

“We don’t anticipate needing extra security,” Remy said. “Every game has two police officers there (already).”

Remy said many school administrators from both high and middle schools, and other staff, attend every game.

“If we ever needed to, we could call in extra security from the private firm we have a contract with,” he said. “But we are not anticipating any problems. We hope people will come enjoy the game.”

The district sent out a voicemail to parents Wednesday, saying there have been no credible threats and encouraging people to be thoughtful and responsible in their social media posts.

The district is partnering with the Salem Police Department to make sure they can address any threats if and/or when they come.

Two teenage boys, one of them in a clown costume, were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct after allegedly chasing two women back into a Keizer clinic Friday morning. There isn’t any known connection between this incident and the school district as of Friday.

Silver Falls School District

The Silver Falls School District published a letter on Facebook and sent an email to parents this week, said Superintendent Andy Bellando.

He said they haven’t seen anything in the district, but had received calls from parents who were concerned and asking about the district’s actions after hearing about things on social media and in the news.

He said there haven’t been any credible threats or incidents in the area. The principals and other school officials have been asked to be extra attentive as they monitor the schools, especially when students are outdoors or when visitors are on campuses.

In Bellando’s letter to parents and community members, he said, “Student and adult safety in our schools is a top priority at all times. I have asked principals to reinforce this message in each of our schools and to address these rumors as needed and in an age-appropriate fashion. I have also asked that they monitor this unfortunate matter to be certain that our mission of education is not disrupted.

“I ask for your assistance in reinforcing this message with your son/daughter including the need for acting appropriately during this time. Any effort to mimic the behavior at school or even on social media could scare other students and is considered threatening.”

Woodburn School District

Woodburn School District officials sent a letter to parents and posted information on its website.

Chuck Ransom, superintendent for the Woodburn School District, said the first question district officials are asking is if these are credible threats. He said they are monitoring all threats and working with the police.

“We take everything seriously,” he said.

In his letter to the community, Ransom said, “The Woodburn School District has a zero tolerance policy for threats against our students or faculty.

“Please talk with your student about acting appropriately during this time,” he said.

Ransom said the incidents and reports seem to be “ramping up” and he anticipates being on heightened alert through Halloween.

“I hope people can still have a fun (and safe) October,” he said.

Dallas School District

Th Dallas School District hasn’t had any credible threats, said Assistant Superintendent Dennis Engle.

Engle said the district sent parents information regarding the phenomenon this week and posted the statement on Facebook. They have been working with the Dallas Police Department as well.

Lt. Jerry Mott of the Dallas Police Department sent the following message to the district and posted it Thursday on the department’s Facebook page and the Facebook pages of the schools:

“We are aware of how afraid many of our students and parents in our community are because of various rumors about ‘clowns’ floating around social media … I want our community to know we will have an increased visible presence at our schools.

“We can’t make this nationwide trend of scary clowns go away, but we can hopefully relieve a little anxiety by being more visible in our schools.”

Contact Natalie Pate at npate@StatesmanJournal.com, 503-399-6745, or follow on Twitter @Nataliempate, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nataliepatejournalist or on the Web at nataliepate.com

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