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WUWM's Emily Files reports on education in southeastern Wisconsin.

Parents question MPS response following shooting outside of Rufus King High School

Rufus King High School
Chuck Quirmbach
Rufus King High School in Milwaukee.

Parents of Rufus King High School students aired their concerns at a virtual town hall Monday night, following a shooting outside of the school last week.

The shooting occurred during a Tuesday night basketball game between King and Washington High School. Five people were injured, and a 34-year-old man turned himself in to police last week in connection with the crime.

The most resounding criticism Rufus King parents directed at MPS had to do with communication.

Parents said they learned details about the shooting from local news — not from the school.

"We demand better communication," said parent Alicia Walker. "It has been our experience that lack of well-defined communication has led to rumors such as school shootings that did not occur which of course leads to additional stress for students and staff."

Another parent, Michael Dudor, said when families finally did hear from the school, the information was vague. "All we ever get is a statement that says 'an unfortunate incident occurred,'" Dudor said. "You know, let's get honest about the situation. A shooting occurred on Rufus King grounds. And that’s what should have been communicated to the families."

Superintendent Keith Posley responded to the communication concerns. He said the district was waiting to get information on the incident from police.

"And so what we were doing was working to get clear, concise information to be able to transfer to our community," Posley said. "And I’m the first to say that I take full responsibility around that particular piece."

MPS administrators also answered questions about what mental health support was offered to students after the shooting.

Manager of Psychological Services Travis Pinter said when there’s a death in a school community, MPS has a protocol of sending additional counselors to schools. Pinter said additional staff were not sent to King or Washington High School after the nonfatal shooting. Instead, teachers were told to refer students to the school counselor, psychologist or social worker if they needed to talk.

"With the support staff at the school being on hand to see students — and they did see some students that day — we were in communication with them to see if they needed any more supports that could overwhelm what they could provide," he said.

Pinter said the support staff at King were not overwhelmed with students in the days after the shooting.

The shooting is one example of the ongoing problem of gun violence in Milwaukee. King students led a walkout last Friday to call for community action. Superintendent Posley echoed that plea.

"These incidents are happening too often in our city," Posley said. "But I want to make clear — gun violence is not a Rufus King issue. It is not a Washington High School issue. It is not an MPS issue. It is a community issue that will take all of us working together to make our communities safe."

If MPS does have to respond to events like this in the future, Posley pledged to improve communication with families and revisit protocol for sending additional mental health support to schools.

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Emily does education reporting as well as general news editing at WUWM.
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