As Ashe County Schools concludes — and the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office nears its end of — the investigation into the graffiti threats at Ashe County Middle School, it must be said that the communication to the public of any potential danger appears to be ending much better than it began.
Hindsight is 20-20, and the cooperative spirit of communication between official departments including the school system, law officers and the public is now as clear as parents and county residents have a right to expect.
Yet, what began as a significant threat — and any threat, anonymous or otherwise, vowing to “strike the school in three days” can never be anything but significant — also began as a poor attempt to let the public know that possible harm to our children had been boldly stated.
It was not until nearly 30 hours had passed from the time the threat was uncovered, and nearly six hours after the first media report appeared in the Ashe Post & Times, that the school system alerted parents to what it had discovered Feb. 4 written on a wall in the boys’ bathroom.
We understand that there is a balance that must be struck between informing the public and hampering an investigation. Law officers must be given space and breadth to do their work for the safety of all.
But, we also understand that in schools today, across the High Country and across America, all threats must be communicated effectively, rapidly and in as organized a manner as possible to ease the potential for harm. A time-lapse of more than a full day does not fit this criteria.
As we await now final word from the ACSO and Ashe County Schools on what has been uncovered and what actions will be taken, we hope to be able to check this off as a High Country test we did not pass — but, more importantly, from which we learned.
Going forward, it is our further hope that the Ashe County Schools system and law officers will make timely the communication of any threat that has the potential to affect our children. And more, that all school systems take to heart the lessons learned here.
That way, and only that way, can the rightful deciders — parents — make their own assessment and determine the amount of risk they are willing to place their children under.