Superintendent speaks on decision to move Marquette High students to virtual learning after social media threats

Published: Nov. 21, 2022 at 9:33 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - Just days before the Thanksgiving holiday, students at Marquette High School students are taking virtual classes in the wake of recent social media threats made to the campus.

“It’s all taken seriously. I believe it has to be at this particular point in time,” said Dr. Curtis Cain, Superintendent for the Rockwood School District. “We also have a responsibility in terms of our communication for it to be factual and accurate, but to also be measured in terms of what our responses look like.”

Dr. Cain spoke with News 4 on Monday, following the district’s decision to move to virtual learning Monday and Tuesday. He says the decision gives students, families, and the entire district time to process the two social media threats that led to early dismissals on Thursday and Friday last week.

“We need to make sure people are in a good place, emotionally and in other ways,” Cain said. “That people are in a good place before we can have any focus on what’s happening instructionally.”

It is a decision not taken lightly, now four weeks since the deadly shooting at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School and Collegiate School of Medicine and Biosciences.

“I wouldn’t say it’s explicitly because of the tragedy that occurred in that situation, but it’s just something that is always going to be an ever-changing landscape in terms of what we’re dealing with, what our responses need to look like, and ultimately what our responses and our supports look like,” Cain said.

Parents told News 4 this weekend and on Monday off camera they support the district’s move to virtual learning because it will help give students and families a much-needed mental health break from the incidents.

“As far as the students at this school and other schools in the area, they’re likely going to be in this hyper-vigilant mode waiting for something else to happen somewhere else in town or waiting for it to happen at their own schools,” said Dr. Jameca Woody Cooper.

Dr. Cooper is a Clinical Psychologist at Emergence Psychological Services, LLC. She is also a Program Director for the school psychology program at Webster University and has worked directly with patients who’ve experienced similar trauma.

“I think going virtually for a temporary amount of time is definitely helpful because it helps to at least let the immediate sense of danger kind of die down, settle down,” she said. “[It] gives time for the school to put a plan in place.”

Dr. Cain says students can expect to see more support services on hand at Marquette High School when students return after the Thanksgiving holiday, and other schools across the district can also reach out to receive help.

“We will continue to have additional dialogue about security and what that presence looks like on Monday,” he said. “I would anticipate that there will be more physical presence in terms of security at Marquette High School just to help with that onboarding process as students are coming back.”

As for families, Dr. Cooper encourages students and parents to talk to one another about their concerns regarding the recent threats. She also says staying off of social media and trying not to read about the incidents can help further heal.

“The best thing you can do as a parent is to ask questions to see what it is that they know, what they might have questions about,” said Cooper. “And then to answer those questions and to provide them with accurate information about those topics, so they at a very minimum are not going around with beliefs and ideas that are false about what might happen, what might’ve happened, [or] what could happen.”

Last week, the district said the student who was responsible for a social media post that evacuated the school on Thursday has been identified. However, the district would not release a name or what kind of discipline the student will receive.

Monday, the district would not go into further details about Friday’s threat other than to say that investigation is ongoing and they’re working with multiple agencies on it.

“We will continue to work with our law enforcement agencies, the investigation is ongoing,” said Dr. Cain. “We are going to find ways not only for staff, but for students and for parents to continue to feel comfortable as we return to school on Monday.”