Anonymous letter sparks fears of primary school attacks
PARENTS today vowed to keep their children off school after a council sent out a letter sparking fears that primaries could be at risk of attack.
The letter was issued to all primary parents in East Lothian after a bizarre, anonymous note was received at a number of schools. Education bosses also notified the police.
Some parents said there had been rumours of threats connected to last week’s school massacre in Connecticut – forcing the council to issue an emergency statement insisting there was no reason to worry.
Mum Kerry McFarlane, 27, whose seven-year-old daughter attends Prestonpans Primary, said: “The council are saying there is nothing threatening but they have contacted the police so obviously they’re on the alert for something.”
In his letter to parents, East Lothian head of education Darrin Nightingale revealed he was “managing” a situation in which a document had been received by a number of schools containing “a strange take” on a children’s parable.
He said there was nothing “threatening or offensive” in the document but added that police had been notified, with education staff on the look-out for “suspicious activity or individuals around school premises”.
As fear and confusion escalated, education bosses moved to reassure parents by issuing a statement, which said: “It is important to stress that these letters are non-criminal, non-threatening and non-offensive in nature and we do not believe that any threat is posed to the wider community.
“East Lothian Council is advising parents that children should finish the school term.”
Lothian and Borders Police confirmed they had been contacted by education bosses, but said the matter would be handled by East Lothian Council.
Ms McFarlane said: “I’m not sending my daughter to school and all of my friends are keeping their kids off school.
“There are that many rumours flying about – it’s obviously something serious.
“They should send out the original letter they got so we can decide for ourselves if it’s safe for our kids to be in school.”
It is understood the anonymous note refers to Neale Donald Walsch’s modern parable in which God surrounds a “little soul” in “darkness” so it knows how it “feels to be the light”.
Fears the note was linked to the Connecticut shootings were dismissed after it emerged it was received by the school before the US massacre took place.
Another mother whose child attends Prestonpans Primary, who did not want to be named, said: “Why would someone want to send a note like this? What’s the reason? What’s the motive? I won’t be sending my kids to school tomorrow or after the holidays either until I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about.”
Opposition councillors said they were furious they did not find out about the letter until anxious parents began posting concerns on social media sites.
Councillor Stuart Currie, SNP member for Musselburgh East and Carberry, said: “There was a full council meeting on Tuesday and you would have thought someone would have mentioned this letter.
“I didn’t expect to read the letter via a link on Twitter. And the fact the council has issued a statement at 10.30 on a Wednesday night just underlines the concerns about the vagueness of the letter.”
Education convener Shamin Akhtar said the council had thought the contents of the letter were “serious enough” to bring in the police but she declined to comment further. She said: “We have referred the matter to the police and we will answer people’s questions in due course.”
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Sunday 26 May 2013
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