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Middletown Transcript
  • Snow, internet troll generate flurry of controversy for Appo. School District

  • Monday brought a fair share of snow, sleet and controversy to the Appoquinimink School District.
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  • Monday brought a fair share of snow, sleet and controversy to the Appoquinimink School District.
    A social media imposter pretending to be Superintendent Matthew Burrows stoked the frustrations of many parents who were already upset over the district's decision to open school on time despite a storm snowfall that ended up leaving about two inches of snow in some areas.
    Among the comments attributed to Burrows was a statement that the superintendent places a higher priority on education than student safety or wellbeing.
    "The superintendent would never speak dismissively or disrespectfully like that, and I think anyone who knows him knew immediately that those weren't his statements," district spokeswoman Lillian Miles said Tuesday. "Unfortunately, because the imposter used the superintendent's name and our district logo, some people didn't know what was happening and understandably became upset."
    Miles estimated the fraudulent comments remained on the page for about an hour before district officials deleted them and notified Facebook and the Delaware State Police of the ruse.
    "We just can't monitor our Facebook account 24 hours a day, but fortunately Facebook responded to our report and deactivated the fake account pretty quickly," Miles said.
    Delaware State Police spokesman Sgt. Paul Shavack said the matter is being reviewed.
    "The Delaware State Police will investigate as to any criminal nexus involved in this incident," he said. "The use of 'imposter' profiles on social media sites might not be inherently criminal, but can cause misinformation and confusion for the public, leading to erroneous information being distributed."
    Miles said the incident is an unfortunate consequence of the life in the digital age.
    "We're always looking to add ways to get information out to parents, but because Facebook does not require verification of identities, this is one of the downsides," she said. "Hopefully, this incident helps to make everyone aware of what you should and should not pay attention to on the internet."
    Miles said parents should be aware in the future that Burrows does not have a personal Facebook account and any official statements from the superintendent will be posted on the district's official website at apposchooldistrict.com.
    As for the district's opening on time Monday, transportation supervisor Gregg Tulowitzky said he stands by that recommendation.
    "The latest we can make that call is about 5 a.m., and at that time there wasn't a drop of moisture in the air," he said. "We were also in communication with the Smyrna School District to our south and the Cecil County Public School District to our west, and at that time, they also were planning to open on time."
    Cecil County opted for a late opening at about 5:45 a.m., while Smyrna, Brandywine and Christina school districts continued with their regular schedule before announcing early dismissal about the same time as Appoquinimink, which sent middle and high school students home at 11:30 a.m., followed by elementary and kindergarten students at 12:30 p.m.
    Page 2 of 2 - MOT Charter School and St. Anne's Episcopal School, which both announced late opening before cancelling the school day, have fewer buses routes to contend with and therefore can make those decisions later than Appoquinimink, which contracts 115 routes that travel a 100-square-mile area.
    "Any decision we make in a situation like this is going to make some people very disappointed and others very happy," said Tulowitzky, who has served as the district's transportation supervisor since 2001. "We typically get a lot of calls that go either way, and I try to call back every one of them who leave a name and phone number."
    Miles said the ultimate decision about whether to send students to school on days with inclement weather rests with parents.
    "If they feel unsure about sending their children to school – whether it be on foot, in a car or on a school bus – all they need to do is send in a note to their school and make sure their children make up the missed work," she said. "Parents are our partners in education and we trust them to know what is best them and their child."
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