Breaking News: McNair Elementary School Shooting in DeKalb County, Georgia: Lessons in Crisis Communication

We interrupt this blog with Breaking News. A school shooting at McNair Elementary School in DeKalb County, Georgia is sadly duplicating the same crisis communication failures that we began to outline in this morning’s article and the serious written and awaiting posts in the coming days.

Our goal is not to belittle this school or the DeKalb County schools. Our goal is to have all schools and school districts wake up and adopt crisis communications plans and modern communications techniques. News about a school shooting must come from the school with great effort. Schools must not relegate information to the media, who will speculate about what they don’t know. Schools must not let social media go wild with panic and speculation.

Here is a breakdown of how information is and is not flowing about this shooting, just as it has in many other school shootings:

News helicopters hover with overhead images:











The DeKalb County School website has NO information about the shooting. Within one hour or less of the onset of the crisis, the county should be posting truthful, honest information about this crisis.













Eyewitnesses post iPhone video.

Online news organizations repost the iPhone video.












Twitter information about the school comes from observers and the media.



















There are no Twitter updates from DeKalb County Schools. In fact, DeKalb hasn’t posted to their Twitter page since July 3. Today is August 20, 2013. Ideally, they should have a short Tweet with a link back to their official website.














The DeKalb Facebook page only gloats about happy news, ignoring this as a viable way to send timely and accurate information to the public. Ideally, they should have a short post with a link back to their official website.
















Parents are being interviewed by the media, expressing their fears and frustrations. Police are trying to manage frustrated parents at a time when school officials should be managing this task.










Read these Tweets to hear the frustration of parents amid the lack of official information from school officials.











So far… now in our third hour, we’ve seen no sign of a news conference from the DeKalb County School system. We do know the superintendent has spoken to parents at an area where children are being taken.

The bottom line is, it is time for educators and the education establishment to get educated about crisis communications. If you were being graded on this today, you would receive and F in communication, like so many other schools before you.

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