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State Grants CUSD Relief for Sandy Hook-Related Absences

The lower attendance, however, didn't occur until seven days later after the rampage. A sheriff's official blames Facebook rumors.

A candlelight vigil for the victims of the Sandy Hook/Newtown shooting. Patch file photo
A candlelight vigil for the victims of the Sandy Hook/Newtown shooting. Patch file photo

The California Department of Education has approved Capistrano Unified’s request for relief from the financial implications of so many students staying home from school after the Sandy Hook/Newtown shooting, despite those absences being logged seven days after the rampage – which was also the day before winter break began.

The decision can make the district whole after suffering a hit of $123,344 in lost revenues.

Schools receive money based on student attendance. And state law allows school districts to be reimbursed if an emergency precipitates a sudden drop in attendance.

On Friday, Dec. 14, a gunman walked onto a Connecticut elementary campus and started shooting indiscriminately at staff and students, killing 26.

A week later, on Dec. 21, all six comprehensive high schools and Shorecliffs Middle School in San Clemente and Niguel Hills Middle School in Laguna Niguel collectively experienced a 10 percent drop in attendance.

In its application for assistance, the school district included a letter from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department that said a Dana Hills High student posted Dec. 15 on Facebook a rumor of a possible attack on his school the coming Friday. By Monday, deputies had determined the threat not credible, something they confirmed again on Tuesday.

Rumors, however, persisted, said Sgt. Nancy Wilkey in her letter that accompanied the district’s request.

“Students reacted by generating more comments, concerns and rumors that were visible for thousands of students to see through social media networking sites and text messaging,” she wrote. “Families were in panic mode.”

Morgan August 29, 2013 at 09:43 AM
This is just silly...there's a drop in attendance EVERY year before winter break. I'm disappointed in capo unified for capitalizing on what was a national tragedy
M August 29, 2013 at 11:20 AM
I say if you can get Cusd then take it! Gov. Brown is proposing 315 million prison expansio, that is sure to take money away from schools and other services.
fact checker August 29, 2013 at 01:23 PM
The absences had an impact on the budget and they were very much higher than averages at that time during other years. The CDE policy exists for just such contingencies. Only the Patch would think their readers would appreciate their little dig about it being a whole 7 days later. The key quote is that "families were in a panic mode." Why would anyone object to a legitimate claim and the resulting return of ADA funds to a strapped district? Quit trying to stir the pot Penny.
shelly August 29, 2013 at 02:25 PM
"In its application for assistance, the school district included a letter from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department that said a Dana Hills High student posted Dec. 15 on Facebook a rumor of a possible attack on his school the coming Friday. By Monday, deputies had determined the threat not credible, something they confirmed again on Tuesday. Rumors, however, persisted, said Sgt. Nancy Wilkey in her letter that accompanied the district’s request." __________________________________________________ Some of the school shootings were preceded by the person making veiled threats and then no one really taking it seriously. It seems that maybe some people took the rumors on social media seriously.
Alberto Barrera August 29, 2013 at 09:04 PM
Lots of people leave for vacations the day before Winter break starts, is this really too hard to understand?
Penny Arévalo (Editor) August 29, 2013 at 09:15 PM
Alberto, you were a student at one of the schools named in the waiver. Did you hear the rumors? Was there a realistic cause for alarm?
shelly August 29, 2013 at 11:02 PM
Not hard to understand that some people left early for winter break because it happens every year. Is it hard to understand that some parents and students were saddened and shocked about Sandy Hook and then freaked out by a rumor so they kept their kids at home or kids stayed at home?
Alberto Barrera August 29, 2013 at 11:36 PM
Yes, San Juan Hills is one of the six highs chools in CUSD. I heard of no such rumors, and I would have, considering that the Marco Forster rumor from March of last year was quickly spread on Facebook.
fact checker August 30, 2013 at 02:33 AM
So take one student's anecdote versus an investigation from the state based on district attendance figures and the testimony of a police rep. No offense to Alberto but this attempt to stir up the usual suspects in a barrage of anti CUSD rhetoric is really nit picking.
Alberto Barrera August 30, 2013 at 01:50 PM
Think about this fact checker. Don't you think that more absences would have been registered at Dana Hills than at any of the other schools? Since the Sandy hook shooter targeted an elementary school, don't you think that at least one elementary school would have been named in the report? I'm not attempting to stir up anything, I just find it absurd that CUSD officials would try to tie this in with a tragedy, when I don't see any concrete evidence supporting it. The testimony of the Police rep clearly states that the rumor was debunked on the Tuesday before. Honestly, if you were a parent, wouldn't you have kept your children home from school the Monday or Tuesday following the tragedy instead of the Friday after?
Penny Arévalo (Editor) August 30, 2013 at 02:04 PM
Dana did have proportionally more absences, Alberto. But to get the waiver, they needed more numbers. If Dana families felt the danger was real (and I agree, Shelly, that is easy to understand if it happened), then one might expect to see the feeder schools into Dana also impacted. One middle school was. One wasn't. That's kind of odd. ------------------------------------Shelly, you had a kid last year at SJHHS last year, didn't you? Did you hear about the Facebook rumors to the point where you were afraid for your children? And that's just it, FC. I'm not just a reporter. I'm a mom of two kids in a supposed affected school. But they heard nothing, And they're avid FB users with best friends at SCHS and Dana. But nothing. On the other hand, when Richard Rack was taken away from his classroom in December 2011, I heard TONS about that from the FB rumor mill. And I have no kids who go/went there. As for the Marco rumor Alberto referenced, I heard about that from the school itself, trying to assuage fears of a specific threat. We didn't get that either as parents in the Sandy Hook incident. I admit to being skeptical based on my skills of observation. -------------------Finally, I wrote this article at the request of the district. They wanted you to know they got the waiver to help them recover the lost revenues.
shelly August 30, 2013 at 07:24 PM
Penny, "In its application for assistance, the school district included a letter from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department that said a Dana Hills High student posted Dec. 15 on Facebook a rumor of a possible attack on his school the coming Friday. By Monday, deputies had determined the threat not credible, something they confirmed again on Tuesday. Rumors, however, persisted, said Sgt. Nancy Wilkey in her letter that accompanied the district’s request." __________________________________________________ I personally did not hear about the rumors at SJHHS but the rumors, as I understand it from the about quote, were about DHHS. It seems like the Sheriffs' department was notified and they investigated it and the Sheriff even say the rumor persisted. The OC county sheriff department state that there was a rumor. _________________________________________________ Parents post more on facebook these days so if there was a rumor on facebook it could have had the parents ruminating more than the kids. My kids informed me last year that facebook really isn't the place that kids post in or read as much anymore. They are more on instagram, and vine and occasionally on facebook. __________________________________________________ But if I had heard a rumor as a parent I would have checked it out. And because I am a worrier maybe I would not have sent my kids to school. Maybe gone to the beach or the zoo or stayed at home. I know at the time I was so saddened and horrified about Sandy Hook. It makes you look at people differently for a while and ask questions like what would you do if someone burst in with a gun? What do you tell your kids to do? For a brief time you find yourself looking for escape routes.
fact checker August 31, 2013 at 03:57 AM
The bottom line is that the folks at CDE were satisfied that the discrepancy in attendance met the standard for reinstatement of ADA funds. I can't imagine why anyone would object to a successful bid by CUSD to recover much needed funds. Unless, of course, they are looking for any sign of malfeasance and eager to point the finger at whatever district source is responsible for the application, factual or not.
Capo Parent September 02, 2013 at 12:52 PM
CUSD claim was pure BS. That being said, given how bad CUSD is screwed every year by the state, it should take money from the state whenever possible, even under false pretense. You don't see LAUSD, SFUSD and like offering to share the millions & millions in extra money they get at the expense of CUSD and other similar school districts.
fact checker September 02, 2013 at 11:13 PM
Oxymoron Capo Parent?
Capo Parent September 04, 2013 at 12:22 AM
FC The pot shouldn't call the kettle black. FYI it's called reality.
fact checker September 04, 2013 at 06:49 PM
The word was directed at your comment CP, not you. And the reality is that CUSD followed the rules and got a reimbursement.

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