SIERRA VISTA — A parent’s call to the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office to report that a student may have brought a pellet gun to Buena High School Wednesday partially led to the district’s decision to deactivate its Facebook page, the announcement of which erupted into a firestorm of objections from the community.
Once it was determined there was no threat and students were safe, the shelter-in-place was lifted.
“As the last bell rang at the end of the day, the parent of the student notified the school and law enforcement that they had found the pellet gun they feared the student had brought to school,” said district public information officer Rebecca Bentz.
Bentz said that when situations like this occur, the first priority is keeping students safe by taking such measures as shelter-in-place, and the next priority is communicating the information to anyone with a concern in the matter, such as parents.
Some parents heard about the incident through Facebook before they received a phone call from the school district, even though “administration contacted information management and the public information officer to disseminate the information as quickly as possible,” according to an email sent out by Buena Principal Kristen Hale.
Later Wednesday, around 5 p.m., SVUSD posted an announcement on Facebook informing the community of its intention to deactivate its Facebook page. It read, in part: “After careful consideration of parent and community member feedback as well as staff workloads, SVUSD has decided to deactivate this Facebook page.
“We know many of you are upset that you or others saw our Facebook alert about the shelter-in-place situation before our phone system was able to complete all emergency notification calls to Buena High School parents/guardians. We also know that there are those among you who don’t believe the District should make posts celebrating our staff and successes.
“However, we feel it is important that everyone has the opportunity to access these posts and information for at least the next few days. Therefore, we won’t be deactivating this page immediately.
“We will provide an update on the exact deactivation date as soon as possible. At this time, we are unsure when or if the District might reactivate the page.”
Response to the decision was met with widespread opposition. More than 100 comments had been posted as of Wednesday night.
Few, if any, supported the district’s decision to deactivate the page.
“Respectfully, in this day and age schools and school districts need to have a social media presence,” Candace Mayberr Evans said in her reply to the post.
“Whether people like it or not, social media is how the general public communicates important information quickly. Rather than deactivate the Facebook page, improvements can be made in other avenues of communication, such as email, text and phone. I predict a significant number of community members will become very frustrated if this page is deactivated.”
When contacted for comment, SVUSD Board President Barbara Williams said she likes the district’s Facebook page and was sorry to learn about the deactivation.
“I enjoy the Facebook page because it’s a great place for our schools to celebrate accomplishments and keep the community informed,” Williams said. “I understand the current action and we’ll possibly consider reactivating the page in the future.”
Bentz said another reason for deactivating the Facebook page is because she’s moving out of the area and is the only staff member who posts updates.
“Other staff members’ workloads don’t afford them the time to update the Facebook page, and we don’t want to have outdated or erroneous information out there, which is the reason for the deactivation,” she said. “In addition, the majority of the feedback on the page is negative toward the district.”