Rumor addressed

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 22, 2008

It is sad and unfortunate that rumor and innuendo stemming from what amounted to no more than a garbled reading by a school official of a well-intended inspirational message would set a portion of our community in rage.

That’s apparently what happened at Batesville Junior High School last Wednesday when principal Darrel Tucker was reading from a script over the intercom when some in ear-shot of the announcement thought they heard the “n” word.

By the middle of the next day — but curiously not until then — the rumor was raging throughout the community. As soon its the rumor reached the office of the school district superintendent he immediately launched an investigation into the allegation.

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Superintendent Dr. Keith Shaffer acted promptly on the complaint, talking with Tucker and meeting staff members of that school.

He offered each staff member an opportunity to reveal in writing (anonymously) what they had heard from the intercom. He furnished them unmarked envelopes  — to assure that anonymity was protected — in which to place the comments when they were finished. Later, as he read through the comments, he knew that the rage was much ado about nothing.

Not only did 68 staff members respond, an overwhelming number of them signed their names. The consensus was overwhelming that a word or words may have been mispronounced, but that in no way did he pronounce a racial slur.

If only common sense had been used, the handful of people fueling this fire would have realized that a person in the position of school principal with nine years in this particular job and his retirement vested in the state retirement system, would not blow it by using language considered taboo by most for nearly half a century.

They would realize that if something of the magnitude of those allegations had occurred, the superintendent and school trustees would have been notified immediately by well-meaning faculty and staff that a racial epithet had been broadcast from the school’s public address system.

And it’s a shame that just days before the holiday that memorializes the one who worked so hard to fight racial injustice, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a school administrator has been verbally lynched by a few people who failed to use reason or get facts before spewing forth Chicken Little accusations that “the sky is falling.”

When real injustices occur, the good people of this community will stand tall.  Spewing forth idle gossip and unsubstantiated claims and innuendoes hardens the hearing of those to whom the words are spread. Remember the story of the little boy who cried “wolf?”