The news release, sent Wednesday by Capt. Steve Henry, stated that because of “recent incidents in and around Smith County and social media discussion of possible threats of violence,” police will have additional officers on campuses Friday morning and during early release.
“Threats of violence aren’t new to campuses but we are taking extra precautions at this time in light of the Newtown shootings and drama surrounding the Mayan prediction of end of earth on Dec. 21,” the release reads.
But Whitehouse ISD Superintendent Daniel DuPree noted that early release was scheduled more than a year ago and said in a statement that the early release “has nothing to do with any recent security issues throughout the country or this local area.”
After the news release was sent, Whitehouse Police Chief Craig Shelton also made it clear on the department Facebook page that the early release was planned since the beginning of the school year and that there have been no threats of violence at Whitehouse ISD campuses.
“We still will be in and around the schools just to let the parents know their children are our top priority,” Shelton said.
DuPree said the district did not request additional officers but appreciates any help police put forth for the district.
“We’re in good shape. Our security measures are in a good place, and we’re looking forward to a good week and hope everyone has a good holiday,” he said.
Shelton said that information about the early release got “blown out of proportion” because of the mention of the Mayan calendar.
“He mentioned (the Mayan calendar but) never wanted to insinuate that because of that we’re going to bring in extra security,” he said.
Shelton said it initially was sent to other officers and later sent to media as well.
He said the news release was intended to be positive but “backfired.”
Because of recent incidents and the fact that students were getting out early, he said police thought it would be a good time for parents to see police presence and let them know that their children are a top priority.
“Capt. (Henry) meant it to be a good (public relations) for the police department, and it just got kind of miscommunicated,” Shelton said, adding that DuPree and Assistant Superintendent Richard Peacock were unaware of the release.
In the future, he said the department will redo its policy when it comes to getting out information about the district.