MADISON TWP., Ohio – A confusing report on social media Thursday stoked fears and rumors in both local school districts in the wake of Monday's school shootings at Madison Jr./Sr. High School.
The post from Middletown City Schools about a gun-related incident near Madison Local Schools also led to some hard feelings between parties on social media. Middletown City Schools ultimately apologized.
It started after Sheriff Richard Jones reported the early-morning arrest of a driver with two guns and nearly 700 rounds of ammo a quarter-mile away from Madison Local Schools. In a statement to the schools and the media, Jones said "there is no evidence linking the suspect to the Madison School District, but it is being actively investigated."
Ultimately, the sheriff's office reported finding no link and no threat to the schools.
But Middletown City Schools sent a robo call to parents and posted a message on their Facebook page that raised concerns. The post said, in part:
"Madison Schools unfortunately has had another incident. I want to set you at ease thought (sic) that the situation was quickly brought under control. There was an arrest made. The students and everyone there is safe."
That set off alarms in the Madison community.
"We started getting a lot of phone calls here at the board office...personal text messages coming in and just a lot of questions flying around. There was some inaccurate information that was being circulated," said Madison's PR director, A.J. Huff.
Madison then posted this message to calm fears, emphasizing what the sheriff said - that the arrest was unrelated to Madison schools :
Middletown City Schools followed with two more posts. The first clarified that the incident was unrelated to Madison schools. It also said, in part:
"Middletown City School District is working diligently to improve communication with our school community and our district at the request of our parents. We understand this may have cause confusion and we were not trying to induce panic."
The Middletown communications specialist, Destini Burns, apologized in a reply to a comment on the post, saying in part:
"We surely made a mistake. I apologize for that mistake because as a parent, I would not have wanted to receive a call like this."
The third post, headlined "CLARIFICATION TO NOTIFICATION," accurately updates the day's events.