After an uneasy Monday, Tuesday at Riverbend High was more like a normal school day, officials said.
There were no television news crews or wild rumors like on Monday, the first day of classes since it was reported that two Riverbend students, ages 17 and 15, had been charged with conspiracy to commit murder in an alleged plot to shoot up the school.
Spotsylvania County schools spokeswoman René Daniels was at Riverbend most of Tuesday morning and said that absences were up slightly from Monday, but not outside the normal daily range. She also said there was a usual number of early dismissals Tuesday.
At a School Board meeting Monday night, Superintendent Scott Baker said there will be an increased police presence at the school this week to give students, parents and staff a sense of security, not because of any additional threats.
Baker voiced his appreciation for the work of the Spotsylvania Sheriff’s Office and the Riverbend administration in handling the incident. There were no other comments about the incident from School Board members or members of the public at the meeting.
The mood at school was different Monday, as parents began receiving frantic texts from their children around lunchtime. Some said there were nine more students involved in the plot to shoot classmates and teachers. Some said there was a teen with a gun in the lunchroom. Some said two more students had been arrested, police were everywhere and a helicopter was flying overhead.
The stories seemed odd, yet many parents believed them.
Law-enforcement officials said none of it was true and that they do not think any other students were involved.
Rumors and stories similar to these usually follow when there are major threats at schools, said Ken Trump, director of National School Safety and Security Services. School divisions can thwart those rumors by immediately providing information to students, staff and parents in an emergency, he said.
“You can’t wait until you thoroughly investigate and then communicate, you have to do both at the same time,” Trump said. “Rumors and misinformation are flying within seconds and minutes rather than days and weeks.
“When you have crazy rumors and people have nothing else to fall back on, they’re going to start believing what they do have.”
Riverbend Principal Troy Wright sent an email to parents Monday evening, dispelling the rumors that had been spread during the school day. Wright had sent an email to parents Oct. 12 when officials began investigating the threat and again on Saturday after the arrests were announced, but some parents said they didn’t receive them.
Some parents said that if they had more information, they would be more inclined to believe their children were safe at school. Some have asked for a community forum, with parents, students, staff, school administrators and the sheriff.
Daniels said there is no plan to hold a forum because the school division has not had any direct requests to do so, to her knowledge.
She said parents can set up appointments to meet with school staff, including after hours. Wright said about a dozen have done so thus far.