School officials should have told the basics


If published and broadcast reports are to be believed, it appears Minneapolis school officials made some poor choices when they announced the gunshot incident at Sheridan Global Arts and Communication School at Broadway and University last week. On Tuesday, media reports told of a handgun found in a backpack at Sheridan. The reports didn’t indicate whether or not the gun was loaded, or how authorities learned that the gun was in the backpack.

On Friday, the media reports said that authorities found the gun because someone threw the backpack on the floor in the lunchroom, and the gun fired.That’s a far different story from the one people heard Tuesday and Wednesday. And yet, school officials must have known the truth before sending out the watered-down version. Friday’s reports indicated that an explanation letter sent home with students also did not mention that the gun had fired.

If the school district were asking a student about a similar incident, and the student failed the mention that the gun fired, that student would almost certainly be disciplined for the dishonesty. District officials are the adults of this situation, and the public counts on them for the whole truth. The public deserved to know such a pertinent detail immediately.

It’s hard to imagine a set of circumstances that would justify withholding, even temporarily, something as important as a gun going off at a school, especially when it was apparently the noise from the gunshot that told the adults that the gun was in the school. And how silly do those adults appear to the cafeteria full of eighth graders who probably knew exactly what happened, and then heard the adults they are taught to respect tell the public a less-than-truthful version of what happened?

More important, what lessons are those adults teaching those students? This is what the lesson looks like from here:

When something really bad happens on your watch, leave out the really bad part and make it look like you’re so on top of things that you just knew where to look for the hazard, you found it, you brought the perpetrator to justice and probably prevented something really bad from happening.

That’s the way it looked Tuesday. The fact that it doesn’t appear to have happened that way makes everyone involved look bad.