Parents and community members gathered at the Niangua High School library on Thursday, May 18 to hear Sheriff Roye Cole speak on the chain of communication following an investigation into false claims of a weapon at school. Sheriff Cole addressed concerns from parents, teachers, and the school board alike, aiming to bring peace of mind to a community riddled with questions following the incident.
During the early hours of school in late April, a student reported to a teacher that he believed another student was carrying a weapon. Upon investigation by both the teacher and the administration, the claim was found to be false. Approximately 30 minutes after the investigation, the Niangua administration sent out an alert to parents that the situation was a “hoax”. Parents were concerned about the swiftness of this announcement, as more information was being found even after this alert. The weapon in question turned out to be a paint nozzle which a student had hidden in their pants. This information was discovered via video surveillance.
At the community meeting, Sheriff Cole took the floor to address the crowd. Parents in the room were mainly concerned about the first alert sent out following the investigation. A parent at the meeting claimed, “It was pre emptive to say it was a hoax.”
“You can either give fast information or you can give accurate information.” Sheriff Cole remarked, “It’s a delicate balance to get right 100%.”
Many parents in the room agreed that a full lockdown was necessary.
“In the society we live in,” one parent argued. “There are school shootings daily… Better safe than sorry.”
Sheriff Cole noted that he would not have locked down the school based on the information from the investigation.
“I don’t think that locking a door and limiting people’s movements is automatically a good response.” Cole said. “You’re upset about the communication chain, not the response.”
After hearing Sheriff Cole speak, it was generally agreed upon that the response by the Niangua School District and the Webster County Sheriff’s Office was appropriate, but the chain of communication was in need of work. Superintendent Josh Hume and the community thanked Sheriff Roye Cole for taking personal time to address the issue.
“We’re all humans,” said one local woman as the meeting came to a close. “If we were perfect we’d be sitting at the right side of God.”
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