By Per Peterson
Rumors of a possible threat at Tracy Area High School raised safety concerns to the point where a police presence was brought in Thursday.
The threat circulated over social media, and TAHS Supt. Chad Anderson and school officials made it a point to take safety measures last week. Part of those measures included a police presence, as both the Tracy Police Department and Lyon County Sheriff’s Office were present at the school Thursday.
“Everybody knows that our number one priority is always the safety of our children,” Anderson said shortly after the school day started Thursday. “We take any possible threat seriously. In this case, there were just rumors — there was no substantiated threat. Even so, we take it seriously.”
Anderson said when rumors about a potential threat spread, administration takes action, first by talking with students who might have heard something and concerned parents. Anderson lauded TAHS Principal Kathy Vondracek’s communication with the students, and also said teachers are a good resource, as they hear things in their classrooms.
“As soon as we heard there were rumors, we involved law enforcement — they have a wider range of things they can do than we have,” Anderson said. “All we can do is, if we hear something, ask those people to come and talk to us about what they heard. “We do our investigation at (the administrative) level to research everything that we can.”
Anderson said there has been plenty of talk and hearsay among students — kids talking to each other about rumors in the hallways — and some of those kids were talked to.
“There was no substantiated written threat, no substantiated threat that someone heard against our school,” he said. “That’s wonderful. It’s just like the telephone game — things can get distorted and sensationalized. Even if there are rumors that sound completely false, we always take them seriously. Every single parent that contacts us, we get back to them as fast we can. But we can only say so much, especially if it involves a student, because every child has their rights.”
Anderson said that threats like the one against the school last week are an unfortunate part of today’s society. He said when he went into education more than two decades ago, it was a more innocent era.
“Education has changed in many ways over the last 25 years,” he said. “There have been many tragic events throughout the last 20 years, and it’s all schools. They have to revamp their crisis plans to adapt and prepare for the worst-case scenario and hope for the best.”
Another change that schools have had to adapt to, he said, is social media and the influence it has on today’s students. Anderson said he’s disappointed how much of an impact social media has on today’s kids. He gets discouraged when people put things out on social media without knowing the facts.
“All it does is cause fear and angst with people,” he said. “But we can’t control that; we can only control how we react to it.”
Anderson said the school, which is locked all day, continues to be a safe place for students and teachers.
“Bad things happen all the time, but we’re really fortunate to be here — it’s a safe school, a safe place,” he said. “We would never do anything to put anybody in harm’s way. When the kids are home, they’re your kids, but when they come here, I think of them as mine.”
Tracy Police Chief Jason Lichty said his department works well with the school and reiterated Anderson’s stance on safety in the schools.
“When things like this arise, we do what we can with information sharing and keeping things as safe as we can out here — keeping as normal of a school environment as possible, providing good security for everyone in the school,” he said.