Following the second gun incident of the school year—which is less than three weeks old, parents of Stemmers Run Middle School students were critical of school communications.
On Tuesday, a 13-year-old eighth grade boy allegedly displayed a handgun in a classroom at the Essex school, and threatened his teacher and classmates. Baltimore County police said the teacher was able to disarm the student and no one was injured.
"I heard what had happened on the news. The principal didn't give us any information, so that was a little nerve-wracking," said parent April Vines, who spoke with Patch reporter Emily Kimball at the scene. "It's just too much to know that anything could happen. School's not as safe as it used to be, and I can't have my daughter in there without knowing what's going on."
Superintendent S. Dallas Dance has said on multiple occassions that transparent communications is important to his administration.
Mychael Dickerson, the school system's chief of communications, said officials were cautious in disseminating information on the Stemmers Run incident.
"Our priority was making sure we reached out to the parents of the students in the classroom," Dickerson said.
He said staff members called the parents of the students in the classroom afterwards, and a phone message was also sent out through the school system's emergency alert line. Additionally, a letter was posted on the Baltimore County Public Schools website and later sent home with Stemmers Run students.
However, the communications department opted not to use its social media channels to share information about the incident. Last week, a school system spokesman said the department was looking into ramping up its social media efforts following the late-August Perry Hall High School shooting and a closure at Dumbarton Middle School.
"We want to make sure accurate information is getting out there," Dickerson said."We don't want to put out short spurts of information. That would raise more questions than answers."
He noted that the system's Facebook and Twitter accounts are typically used "for lack of a better term, 'positive news.'"
The system also did not send out a news release about the Stemmers Run incident. Dickerson said the case didn't warrant one because it was more school specific and did not necessarily affect other county schools.
"Our focus was the Stemmers Run community," he said.
During a Tuesday afternoon interview, Dickerson was unaware that a press release was also not sent out for the Perry Hall incident. The day of the shooting was his first on the job.
He pointed out that the communications department hadn't fully debriefed from the Perry Hall shooting when the Stemmers Run incident occurred.
"We have a lot to learn now from both [incidents]," he said.