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Medford shooting prompts online anxiety

Fichtner-Mainwaring Park incident Tuesday sets off latest round of social media concerns

Facebook comments from people wondering whether they should keep their children home from school began showing up soon after news spread about a shooting Tuesday evening at Fichtner-Mainwaring Park that left three people injured.

Bad news is usually followed swiftly by comments in the realm of social media. While many of the posts were complaints about local crime, some people stated they would keep their children at home the next day.

Those concerns got the attention of the Medford School District and Medford Police Department.

The shooting occurred at night, hours after school was over. And the incident, which was reported to police just before 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, occurred long after youth sports leagues activities would have completed play or practice, said Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau.

The incident had nothing to do with local schools or the park. That location of the shooting was just where the victims and assailants “came upon one another,” Budreau said.

Police continue to investigate the shooting. No arrests had been reported by police as of Friday.

Brad Smith, principal of Jefferson Elementary School, which is near the park, sent a letter to staff and students’ families about the shooting.

“The incident was in no way connected to Jefferson, and police say there is no threat to our school,” Smith wrote. “Please know that the safety of our students and staff is at the center of everything we do.”

School district staff are aware of the large amount of misinformation showing up on social media. They don’t have time to address every bit of it, however, said Natalie Hurd, spokesperson for the Medford School District.

Misinformation or misperceptions posted online, especially on social media, “have a ripple effect,” Hurd said. “This is a small community.”

Responses to those concerns expressed by parents and guardians of children who attend one of more than 20 school campuses in the Medford district — as well as those from school and district employees — are often sent only to them, Hurd said.

“We prefer to communicate directly with our families, students and staff,” she noted.

Another subject that could affect campus health and safety that has frequently required communication with students’ families and staff has been COVID-19 because its effects have been so numerous and wide ranging, Hurd added.

There are all types of communications going out to families, students, staff and many other segments of the community every day.

The district considers itself as being in partnership with the police department. There are four school resource officers who serve the district’s school campuses, Hurd said.

Budreau said the police department notifies the district about matters that could affect one or more of its campuses.

Smith and Hurd recognized police for their efforts to keep schools and the community safe and said the hearts of people who work for the district go out to the victims of the shooting and their families.