Students in Vilonia schools were sent home Wednesday with a letter of assurance to parents from Superintendent David Stephens regarding concerns about school safety in the district.
Stephens said he felt compelled to reach out to parents in wake of the Florida tragedy and other events occurring recently across the nation.
He said parents have contacted administration and have asked what the district’s proper protocol and plans are regarding school incidents.
“We just felt like it would be a good idea to inform parents about this is what happens when we get a report,” Stephens said.
Concerning recent incidents, Vilonia Freshman Academy posted information about a school situation to its Facebook page March 2.
The Log Cabin Democrat contacted Stephens for more information.
He said on March 1, a parent contacted the VFA principal and spoke with them about a post on social media their child alerted them to.
Stephens said the social media post had images that were alarming — he said he could not speak to the content because the investigation was still ongoing —and they immediately contacted the Vilonia Police Department and the student was intercepted before school started March 2, has been removed and is not in attendance at VFA.
VPD Chief Brad McNew said they charged the 15-year-old male with harassing communications, the case has been handed over to the juvenile prosecutors and the student was released to a guardian.
Back to the letter, Stephens wrote that it is a difficult time for families and schools.
“Weighing the balance between offering the greatest level of protection for our children while still providing them a welcoming, warm and inviting school atmosphere becomes more and more challenging,” he wrote.
Stephens continued and wrote that the district wants to assure parents that their child’s safety is always a top priority.
“We regularly review our protocol involving security and safety and procedures and we are currently in the process of taking steps to improve our training for staff,” he wrote.
Stephens wrote that in the event that a principal or supervisor is made aware of a potential threat, statement or action, those involved will be removed from class and placed under supervision immediately and once that student is secured, law enforcement officers will be called to make a determination on whether to take that student into custody or not.
From there, the letter states the district will determine appropriate consequences.
Stephens wrote if the threat was directed at a large group of individuals or the school, all parents would be notified by the end of the day.
“I hope you will take the time to have a discussion with your child about what is appropriate communication in today’s culture,” he wrote.
The conversations parents should be having with their kids, Stephens said, is so important.
The father of three said he is constantly talking with his kids about what they can say and can’t say in today’s culture; anything can be taken as a threat and people have to be careful.
For that reason, in addition to the extra training for staff, he said they are also planning to open conversations with classrooms about this content and how as Vilonia Eagles, what is acceptable and what isn’t.
Stephens said administration would be meeting to develop a plan for that soon.
“We are trying to be as proactive as possible, but it’s hard to stay ahead,” he said.