Bad PR is worse due to bad advice.

Wednesday morning, a straight F student (#FAIL #1) brings a gun to Thurgood Marshall High School. Somehow, he gets it past security (#FAIL #2), and is in school for less than ten minutes before they come and arrest him (#WIN #1- but, who’s counting). No one from DPS PR or their hired PR Firm from Cleveland, Burges & Burges shows up at the school with an action plan (#FAIL #3). School goes on with minimal disruption (#WIN #2) and the next day, Thursday- attendance is 93% (#WIN #3 since this is about average). Story hits Dayton Daily News site on Thursday with no comment from DPS (#FAIL #4). Public now thinks that Thurgood Marshall is gangland (#FAIL #5) and that you can get a gun in school (#FAIL #6).

The Dayton Daily spins the story that this is serious (#FAIL #7) and trots out the comparisons between districts- showing DPS has more instances than other districts (#FAIL #8) and reinforces the idea that DPS isn’t as safe as other districts (#FAIL #9) – instead of having anything positive to say about TM, like it’s 2 Gates scholars, athletic accomplishments, improving test scores, wins at the science fair… etc (#FAIL #10) or noting that DPS is also many times larger than other districts (#FAIL #11).

From the Dayton Daily:

A Thurgood Marshall High School student will likely face expulsion and criminal charges after police said he brought an unloaded handgun to school Wednesday to sell to classmates.

The arrest highlights a broader issue of students deciding to bring weapons to school despite the inherent dangers.

According to the Ohio Department of Education, at least 208 students statewide were expelled or suspended last school year for possessing or using a gun. According to the state, 2,750 were disciplined for bringing other types of weapons to school.

On Wednesday, resource officers at Thurgood Marshall were told that a student smuggled in a gun even though he was searched by security when he entered the building, according to a Dayton police report. The student told authorities he gave the gun to a girl, who hid it in her bag. (esrati: the girl should also be suspended)

The student — whose age and class rank were not disclosed — almost dropped the weapon in the classroom, and several other students saw the weapon, according to police. He talked with at least two other students about selling it to them.

When questioned by police, the student said he was affiliated with two local gangs and bought the weapon from a man who sells them in his neighborhood. Dayton school officials and police could not be reached for comment.

Dayton Public Schools disciplined 12 students in the 2009-10 school year for bringing weapons to school — none of which was a gun, according to the district’s annual state report card.

The district expelled 10 students the previous year for the same violation.

According to state reports, most districts in the Miami Valley did not report any incidents of students being caught with weapons last year.

Oakwood City Schools has expelled only one student since fall 2007 for bringing a weapon to school, officials said.

The Springboro school district said no students have been expelled in at least the last four years for carrying weapons.

Huber Heights City Schools expelled a student this year for hitting another student with a wooden stick the expelled student brought to school.

via Teen brings unloaded handgun to school to sell.

As most of you know, I am a friend of Thurgood Marshall’s principal, and had him on video on this site recently. I know that Thurgood Marshall is not some sort of urban jungle- and that learning is taking place in the building. The fact that students came to Principal Lawrence immediately to warn him about the gun in his building shows that he has the building under control.

The questions that need to be asked are:

  • Why was a straight F student still attending Thurgood Marshall, dragging the rest of the school down? Why do we not have an alternative school (perhaps a boarding school) to deal with children who are not participating with the mainstream?
  • How did the gun get past security?
  • Why does DPS still have a PR chief who’s response is “no response”- and why is her support being delivered by a PR firm in Cleveland on a no-bid contract?

There are positive things going on at Thurgood Marshall High School- but thanks to the lousy PR department, you’d never know about them. This was a chance to use a negative and turn it into a positive.

I’ve tried to talk to our superintendent, school board members, and the PR chief (who is proud to have “served” under 11 different superintendents) about how to turn the system around- unfortunately, they prefer to hire a political consultant in Cleveland.

This kind of negative pr hurts home values in Dayton, it hurts our kids’ reputation across the region, and it helps reinforce the idea that DPS schools are a district of last resort. This story would have spun differently if it was at Oakwood or Centerville- or even at Stivers. But, inaction isn’t an appropriate response, and those that fail us all, should be held accountable.

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4 Responses

  1. Another Civil Servant October 29, 2010 / 11:51 am
    I have to agree that Dayton Public Schools lost a golden opportunity to comment, if for no other reason than to attempt to assure parents that the school is at least “somewhat” safe.  Dave, your comment “this was a chance to use a negative and turn it into a positive” is overstated.  I see no way that this incident could be turned into a positive.  The gun was missed by security, and it seems that, while some students may have reported seeing it, the article alludes to the fact that many students saw it who did not report it.  At best, DPS officials could have turned a “negative into less of a negative – even a wash if done correctly. 

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  2. David Esrati October 29, 2010 / 12:33 pm

    @ACS if Jim Trafficant can get votes in prison, anything is possible.

    The reality is many people don’t attach faces to Thurgood Marshall right now- this was a chance to put a face of a person in charge, who is no-nonsense, and respected – in front of the lens- and let it rip.

    This can be spun. Just not by political hacks in Cleveland.

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  3. Clay Boggess November 2, 2010 / 8:29 am
    Parents are probably more concerned now knowing that there were several lapses in how this was handled, both before and after the fact. This could have easily been a lot worse than it ended up.  By the way, it’s still not too late for the school to admit its blunders and actively promote a plan that will help prevent this from happening in the future.

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  4. David Esrati November 2, 2010 / 8:37 am

    @Clay- welcome. You are right- there are things that could set parents mind at ease- but, the damage in the general population has been done, and it’s hard to wrestle the attention back on TM now that the damage is done.

    When you are going to be under the microscope- make sure the good stuff appears larger than it actually is, just like a rear-view mirror.

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