About seven of 10 Sullivan students in school Friday, director says

Rick Wagner • Sep 11, 2015 at 5:11 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Friday attendance was down in Sullivan County and Kingsport public schools, officials confirmed Friday.

Internet and social media accounts of a Sept. 11 anniversary attack involving the Black Panthers have circulated in recent days.

“These same rumors were being dealt with by school systems across the country,” Kingsport City Schools Chief Information Officer Andy True said Friday afternoon.

The unsubstantiated information — and apparently erroneous since no incidents were reported, at least locally — was that the Black Panthers were going to enter schools and massacre white students and teachers on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Both the county and city school systems notified parents through the School Messenger system that school officials were aware of the online information and that additional law enforcement would be at schools Friday.

In the county system of more than 10,200 students, about seven in 10 students attended school Friday, according to Sullivan County Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski.

“(We had) 71 percent present,” Rafalowski said in an email in response to a query Friday morning. “We are generally around 93 to 94 percent present.”

In a phone interview Friday afternoon, she said the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office provided patrol and other officers as available to supplment the regular school resource officers, which included four, one assigned to each of the four county high schools. The overseer of those four has an office at the Holston Elementary/Middle schools campus in Blountville.

“The sheriff’s department on days like today, they have their patrol ... in and our of our buildings. They’re riding through our parking lots,” Rafalowski said. However, she said the officer had to leave if he or she received a call.

Kingsport’s True said in a morning email response to a question that enrollment was down at KCS, which has more than 7,200 students, but he did not provide an exact percentage then or Friday afternoon.

“Everything is anecdotal right now regarding attendance, but yes, I would say we are down,” True said in the email.

In an afternoon phone interview, he said the person who oversee attendance was out Friday, making it difficult to track the attendance percentage. The system has 7,209 students in grades K-12 and 7,583 in pre-K-12 as of Friday.

Police presence was stepped up in city schools Friday, True said.

“We have two SROs (school resource officers) at D-B and one at each middle school on a daily basis,” True said in an email.

“In addition to that, KPD (the Kingsport Police Department) has had extra officers moving through all of our schools throughout the day today,” True said. “I'm not sure of the exact total number that has been through D-B today, but it has been far more than two. They have definitely made an extra presence in our buildings today, which is appreciated.”

Some reports indicated two additional police officers had been stationed at D-B, which has more than 2,100 students in grades 9-12.

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