Parents express concern over handling of school alert
OCALA, Fla. (WOGX FOX 51) - “West Port High School On Code Yellow.”
That’s how a Facebook post on the Ocala Police Department page started Wednesday.
“We currently have two students in custody and have recovered one firearm. A second firearm is believed to be in a vehicle on campus. We are investigating and will provide updates as available, but know that there is a strong police presence and your children are protected,” the post continued.
Parents tell the News Station it was the first alert that they got about Wednesday’s gun found on campus.
“The first thing that I found out was on Facebook from the police department, not from the school, so that was kind of confusing. I don’t know why they waited so long to tell us what was going on.”
That confusion led many parents to call the Ocala Police Department.
“We’ve been fielding calls from concerned parents who saw the information on our social media pages, but were upset they had not heard from the school system prior to finding the information on our social media,” says Ocala Public Information Officer, Meghan Shay.
Parents told the News Station they got notification from the district after the school day ended.
“I would say probably around 4 o’clock…I think it should’ve come in, more on time. I mean I can understand with what occurred in the past here.”
What that parent is referring to is an incident at West Port High in April when school officials sent out a notification about a shooting on campus, but that notification was false.
“They did cause quite a situation for us releasing information without verifying it with us,” says Shay.
In order to avoid chaos in the future, Ocala PD says they asked the district to confirm information before informing parents.
School Board Member Angie Boynton released a statement to the News Station which says, in part, “After the April 20 shooting, we followed what law enforcement asked - not to share information until the facts were known and law enforcement could vet the message.”
Ocala PD says the information about Wednesday’s incident was always available to them.
“The Ocala Police Department had information on our social media beginning at 12:48 p.m. Obviously, if we have information out to the public that we have put out, it is approved.”
Shay tells the News Station. Boynton finished her statement by saying.
“What we’re working toward is a common practice that’s good for everyone- parents, families, law enforcement, and our district.”