When news of an alleged school shooting plot emerged from sleepy little Riverton, Kan., earlier this week, it did not take long for the Joplin Globe to throw its resources at the story.
Since the story broke, the Globe has had bylines from Roger McKinney, Nammi Bhagvandoss, Linda Greer, Jeff Lehr, and Andy Ostmeyer, covering everything from the law enforcement viewpoint to students, to the connection between this incident and the Columbine high school shooting of April 1999.
This use of manpower might be questioned, but it is definitely the right decision. This is close to home and people who have children in other area school districts are rightfully worried when a plot like this is uncovered so close to home.
The Riverton arrests have also been the major topic of watercooler talk around the area and plus, there is a mystery to this case, which came to light with Jeff Lehr's article.
There appears to be a wide disconnect between the time school officials first had an inkling about this plot and when law enforcement officials were contacted. In fact, every news account I have read or watched indicates the Cherokee County Sheriff's Department became involved, not as a result of receiving word from school administrators, but from a North Carolina student who had picked up the rumor during a conversation on myspace.com
One of my eighth grade students at South has a close friend who attends Riverton High School, who told her that members of the softball team had told school officials well before April 20 (the purported shooting date), but all news reports are saying the law became involved the evening of April 19.
Reading through Jeff Lehr's story, the message becomes even more disturbing. Students did what they were supposed to do and told school officials. At least one teacher did his job and passed the word along that something serious might be going down. Administrators were checking out the myspace.com postings, according to the article, but it took someone from North Carolina to think of picking up the phone and calling the law.
Perhaps school officials thought that word of a Columbine-like plan would bring unfavorable publicity on Riverton. Maybe they should have thought of the publicity that would have come with an actual massacre.