Editor’s Note: The following is the official statement released by the Exeter Unified School District in regards to rumors of gun violence at Exeter Union High School that were circulating on Friday, Feb. 23. The statement below is unedited and was released to the Sun-Gazette on Feb. 27. The Sun-Gazette’s report on the incident will publish in next edition of the newspaper on Feb. 28.
Rumors about a “hit list” and school shooting at Exeter Union High School (EUHS) ran rampant last week but a joint investigation by the EUHS administration and the Exeter Police Department rendered both to be invalid and students remained safe at school. “There is no hit list.” stated Superintendent, Tim Hire, at an emergency assembly where Hire and Principal, Robert Mayo, reassured students, staff and some parents that they were safe on the EUHS campus. An automated phone call following the 10:30 a.m. assembly informed parents and staff throughout the district that the rumors were not valid and that “every precaution” was being taken including the presence of police officers on and around the high school campus in order to keep students and staff out of harm’s way.
The recent threats of potential violence in schools contributed to the social media hype that caused nearly 400 students to leave EUHS on Friday. Posts that included statements about police disarming a student at the assembly, the school being on lock down, and refuting Hire’s statement that the “hit list” is non-existent escalated students’ fear that a school shooting could be a reality. Students who did not feel safe, despite precautions taken by the site staff and the Exeter Police Department, were allowed to call parents and sign out of school. Parents who also felt their student was not safe came and took their children home. Those who remained on campus felt safe, attended classes and after school activities into the early evening without incident.
Student safety remains the top priority of the Exeter Unified School District. Any and all perceived safety concerns that are brought to the attention of a staff member are taken seriously and thoroughly investigated immediately. In order to increase parent and community confidence in the District’s handling of student safety concerns, there will be a Town Hall meeting to answer question and to share ways parents, students, staff and the community can partner with the District to prevent situations similar to the events of last week. The meeting will take place at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 1, 2018 at the EUHS auditorium.