Yesterday morning, the body of a male student was discovered at Doherty High School in Colorado Springs. Although foul play is not suspected, administrators immediately made moves to close the campus for the day -- but their manner of doing so immediately ratcheted up fears among many parents about danger to their kids owing to the date: September 11. Details, additional photos, a document and three videos below.
Colorado Springs School District 11's first Facebook message about the shutdown reads: "Due to an emergency in the school, Doherty High School is closed today, per the superintendent, Dr. Gledich." Given the dearth of any other info and the 9/11 anniversary (flags at the school were already at half-staff), many parents immediately went into panic mode. And while the district subsequently shared at update that added context -- it begins, "Due to a medical emergency, Doherty students are being released" -- the damage was already done. Here's a Facebook item that encapsulates the criticism:
I have four children who attend Doherty. They called me frantic and very upset being ushered outside. They were not told what was happening. I called the school and was given a vague statement that I needed to pick up my children as quickly as possible. I spent an hour in pick up line at the East lot to get the kids. I received the D-11 automated call as I was in line 30 minutes later. I know this is only my opinion and the school did all they can with procedure, but this was not handled well. Pickup was not organized and police didn't show up to direct traffic until the end. With today being 9/11 and there being enterovirus 68 cases reported here in Colorado, a little more information would have been helpful.
In the end, parents and students were reunited and attention returned to a young man's tragic death. He has yet to be identified and the cause of death hasn't been released.
Meanwhile, Doherty Principal Kevin Gardner, in a waters-calming letter included below, cautions members of the school to avoid speculation. "Rumors may begin to circulate," he writes, "and we ask that you talk with your student about not spreading rumors since they may turn out to be inaccurate and can be deeply hurtful and unfair to family and friends of the student involved."
Our condolences to the late student's loved ones.
Below, see a report from KRDO-TV, videos of Gardner and Colorado Springs Police Department spokeswoman Catherine Buckley shared by the Colorado Springs Gazette and the aforementioned letter.
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Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.