Fmr. Superintendent chooses not to verify crime stats - WECT, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Fmr. Superintendent chooses not to verify crime stats before public release

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PENDER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - When presented with a question recently on the number of guns brought on to the campuses of Pender County Schools, an email chain reveals school officials released information without verifying its accuracy.

Through a Freedom of Information Act request, WECT asked for emails surrounding an incident involving a gun at Topsail High School last October.  A 16-year-old student was charged with bringing an unloaded gun on to the property during a football game.

Those emails were released to WECT this month.

On October 11, 2011, Pender County Community Schools Director Joyce Keith emailed the Director of Accountability and Reporting, Amanda Hobbs, and carbon copied interim Superintendent Rachel Manning to inquire about the last time there was an incident involving a gun.  Keith was following up on a media inquiry.  Hobbs replied that she would have to "put in a ticket with DPI."  DPI is the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.  Hobbs asked if she should do that.

Manning replied, "I say NO.  Joyce, can we just report that we have not had any other gun incidents in the last 5 years?"  Keith agreed.

However, the DPI website currently shows one incident involving a gun in the 2007-08 school year.  

We asked Manning and Keith today why they would just respond without checking.  Manning said off camera that she couldn't remember any gun incidents and the request would have taken too much manpower.  It took less than five minutes to find that information on the website Monday.

Late Monday afternoon, Keith called back to say there was a data entry error and indeed Pender County hasn't had an incident involving a gun on campus in the last five years.  But, they didn't explain why they would just make that public statement without checking their facts. 

"We want to do everything we can to be open with the media and the community," Rachel Manning said.  "We have nothing to hide and we are putting a request in to the Department of Public Instruction now to get accurate numbers.  In order to fulfill our duties of keeping a safe environment for students."

Manning is no longer Superintendent in Pender County Schools.  The Board of Education hired Dr. Terri Cobb late last year. 

"To the best of our knowledge this was an unfortunate data entry error and we regret any confusion it may have caused.  We will contact the Department of Public Instruction to inform them as well," Dr. Terri Cobb said.

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