DANSVILLE — After an unfounded rumor had been investigated twice by law enforcement, it had escalated on social media to cause widespread panic in the community.
Dansville Central Superintendent Paul Alioto held a parent forum at the Dansville High School to talk about this unfounded rumor and the safety of students on April 27. The rumored threat occurred on April 19 and was thoroughly investigated that day, and again on April 26.
Afterwards parents were able to weigh in their questions and concerns on the incident that caused many to keep their children out of school.
Alioto talked about the bullying incident that caused a frustrated student to make an alleged remark defending himself. In no way was this student threatening the school, or to do harm to others.
“It is important for you to know that I am not going to try to claim anything that is not true. I am not going to try to hide anything from you. Those of you who know me know that I am honest, and I will tell you as much as I possibly can without violating the rights of the Family Protection Act,” Alioto said. “There was a bullying incident that involved some high school students. Kids started talking about the comments made. We take these kinds of things very seriously.
“Police went and investigated the comments made, and our administration went and investigated the comments. We found there was no intent to do anyone any harm. It was a comment made by a frustrated kid. The kids all owned up to what they did. They are all disciplined. There were apologies exchanged.
“At that point we thought we had this thing wrapped up. Some kids started some rumors about the kid being bullied. It all starts to go from there,” Alioto continued. “It all blows up when some students shared this information with adults, whether they be parents or just trusted adults, and the adults told them to tell their friends not to go to school. It is at this point that we do another investigation, and the police go back to talk to the kid and interview the family. They make sure there are no firearms accessible.”
The rumor of a school shooting in Dansville on April 27 spread like wildfire on social media, and this caused a lot of panic in the community. The rumor was traced back to a post on social media that showed a photo on a school bathroom with a non-specific threat that was in another school district. This was combined with the email about school safety and the unfounded rumor. Parents immediately thought this was the Dansville Central School District, and felt fearful for their children.
“It was at this point I thought this whole thing had gotten really out of hand,” Alioto said. “I did another post talking about the rumor on social media. At that point we had 63 percent of our students in school, when we normally have over 95 percent. These kids lost a day of instruction, and that is a bad thing. There were a lot of worried parents, and kids had to deal with this. I am very sorry about that. This incident was investigated twice. There was no threat. It was communicated as best as I could.”
Dansville Police Chief Charlie Perkins was at the school in the morning giving it a good sweep, and School Resource Officer Deputy Bob Holt is available for the students safety.
“I thought this was old news. I got a call asking what was going on at the school,” Perkins said. “It had been a week since we looked into the case, and the child was very cooperative. We wanted to reassure everyone there was no threat. There was no reason to have the school shutdown. We didn’t want kids to show up to school feeling like it was a prison. The school is always open with us coming in, and checking on the safety of the students.”
Perkins said he went to all three school buildings, and there were staff available to help. There is an open door policy with the local police department and the school.
The parents all had a chance to talk about their concerns and bring up some ideas moving forward. Some wanted a town-like meeting held once a month to talk about school safety and bullying. Parents requested workshops to help understand social media and bullying. Parents wanted to learn more about the day-to-day security.
A town-like meeting to discuss more about school safety will be open to the public on May 24 at 6:30 p.m. in the Dansville High School Library. There is a letter sent out by the superintendent on the school website https://www.dansvillecsd.org
The superintendent is available to answer any questions at 585-335-4000.