When educators at East Allen County Schools see a threatening social media post tagged with “JJ” – shorthand for “just joking” – they don't play around.
They treat every threat seriously – no exceptions.
“It's not a joke,” Deborah Watson, an assistant superintendent, said to parents during a school safety meeting Monday night. “We even treat the 'JJ' as serious.”
She and other administrators discussed various school safety aspects, including East Allen's safety measures and emergency protocol, for about an hour at New Haven High School. A similar meeting was held simultaneously at Leo Junior-Senior High School, where threats – and fabricated rumors about the threats – caused concern among parents and students last week. The incident led to a student's arrest on charges of intimidation and disorderly conduct.
Intended for parents and guardians, the meetings were prompted by the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. East Allen's other high schools will host sessions Wednesday and Thursday.
The school boards for Fort Wayne Community Schools and Southwest Allen County Schools are addressing school safety during executive sessions; FWCS met Monday, and SACS is expected to meet today.
Northwest Allen County Schools has posted a school safety update on its website, www.nacs.k12.in.us.
Recent events, including the threats, make it a scary time to be a student, New Haven Middle School student Gwyneth Plummer said.
Her parents said the East Allen safety meeting was helpful.
“I thought this would be packed,” mother Amy Plummer said.
The New Haven session garnered a few dozen attendees.
Without such meetings, father Mike Plummer said, “You're left with questions and no answers.”
Administrators shared behind-the-scenes safety efforts, including the district's involvement in the Allen County School Safety Commission and the Indiana School Safety Specialist Academy. Each school has a safety plan, and law enforcement has access to photographs of the buildings so officers can better respond to crisis situations.
Watson encouraged parents to talk with their children about school safety issues. Students should have a trusted person to confide in about threats or concerns.
“That can be you,” Watson said.
Mike and Amy Plummer hope their daughter can participate in an upcoming walkout addressing gun violence in schools. Students' willingness to stand up and try to make a change is commendable, Mike Plummer said.
“I'm proud of the kids today,” he said.