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Ferguson area schools close in anticipation of riots

Ferguson area schools close in anticipation of riots

My husband and I were discussing whether or not we thought the grand jury would indict Officer Darren Wilson and pursue charges against him for his role in the death of Michael Brown. The shooting, which took place in Ferguson, Mo.—a suburb of St. Louis—on August 9, 2014, and all the subsequent events have come to be known simply as “Ferguson” in popular culture.

Since it was decided that a grand jury would convene in the incident, churches and news outlets around the country have been watching the events, as have countless young students in this country who feel that their safety and their very lives are somehow connected to the events in Ferguson.

Interestingly, the city of Ferguson’s concern for its students was the greatest indication to me of what the grand jury’s decision was before it was publicly announced.

As my husband and I took bets on the outcome, we were watching local television, which was interrupted by a news announcement that the grand jury had reached a decision. While it would be several hours before the decision was made public, the newscaster said that many of the school districts in the Ferguson area had announced that they would close schools the next day.

That bit of information was a clear indication to me that the grand jury had decided not to indict. Surely, that announcement would come with the threat of angering the many as yet peaceful protestors that had gathered in Ferguson and around the country. And as with any adverse conditions, student and staff safety should always be paramount. Surely it would make more sense to keep students and staff at home in the wake of potential riots.

School districts in Hazelwood, Ferguson-Florissant, Riverview Gardens and Normandy canceled classes on Tuesday, Education Week reported. But these school districts were slow to act when compared with the Jennings District that decided on Friday to close schools for the entire week.

However, it seems that school districts in the area had been preparing for the decision for several months.

School officials started planning their response to the grand jury decision early in the school year, according to Education Week. This included asking parents to update their emergency contact information and sending letters to parents to let them know how the districts planned to handle the announcement.

Moreover, Grayling Tobias, the superintendent of Hazelwood School District, had indicated on the school district's website that prosecutors would give the superintendents 24-hour notice if a decision was reached on a weekend and three hours notice if that decision was reached on a weekday.

Well, history shows that my hunch was correct. The grand jury decided not to pursue criminal charges. Unfortunately, the hunches of those school superintendents that started to prepare for the worst several months ago were also correct.

The morning after the announcement, the city of Ferguson is still smoldering; the anger of many people and its buildings. The good news is that at least thousands of students will remain relatively safe, at least for now.

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