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.”