- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 24, 2002

Some parents in the metropolitan Washington area are upset because police withheld critical information that could have helped them decide whether to send their children to school or keep them home after the serial sniper critically wounded a man in Ashland, Va., last weekend.
Emotions have run the gamut from anger and disappointment to frustration over Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose's decision not to reveal to parents that the sniper had left a note warning he would harm children. Part of the note read: "Your children are not safe any where at anytime."
District resident Victoria Van Dyke, whose two children ages 6 and 4 attend Hearst Elementary School in Northwest, understands Chief Moose's precarious position wanting to be upfront with the public, but not wanting to divulge information that could thwart the capture of the sniper. Still, she would have preferred to have known about he sniper's threat sooner rather than later, she said.
"I would not say that I'm outraged but, I am angry the entire region is affected and the police had knowledge of this. The Richmond school system took an extra step and closed their schools on Monday and Tuesday because they knew about the threat," Mrs. Van Dyke said.
"Someone did not think the information was pertinent for us. If the police are going to give out information, they should inform everyone," she said.
She and her husband, Jerry, who live in the Columbia Heights neighborhood, are trying to go about their everyday lives but their children's lives have definitely changed they sense something is wrong, they can't go outside and play and the schools are on lockdown, she said.
"As parents, we are all concerned," Mrs. Van Dyke said.
Her sentiments are shared by Felecia Taylor, a resident of Cheverly, Md., and mother of four sons who was concerned about their safety. "I'm terribly disappointed by the lack of information parents are receiving. Families are being held hostage and I feel any information police can give parents, they should," Mrs. Taylor said.
"If the Richmond school system thought a threat was posed to their children the schools and parents in this area should have been apprised as well, so that they could make a determination whether to remain open or to close. Any information pertaining to children should be passed on quickly," she said.
The atmosphere of fear created by the random shootings has affected Mrs. Taylor's busy household. She said her sons, like many other children, are frightened by the thought that something could happen to them as they go about their lives.
"Everyday since these shootings started, we've talked as a family about being careful when you're outside. I'm doing everything I can to reassure them. We talk before they leave for school in the mornings and every evening," Mrs. Taylor said.
In the wake of the chief's belated revelation about the postscript threat, schools in the area didn't see much of a change in reported attendance yesterday. In the Alexandria school system attendance was in the normal, 70 percent of the public school students reported in the District, 91 percent reported for school in Prince George's County, 96 percent in Arlington County, and 85 percent in Montgomery County.
Rhonda Pitts, the principal at Bladensburg Elementary School in Bladensburg, Md., said the chief's announcement yesterday about the sniper's note didn't make her feel any easier. "Chief Moose has to do his job and I've got to do mine. I think he's doing the best he can and he's got to catch this person. I will not say that I'm against what he has done," she said.
Mrs. Pitts, who is charged with taking care of 770 students between 8 a.m . and 2:10 p.m., said: "I'm on alert status watching my students arriving and departing school and police are patrolling the building and the grounds and emergency plans are in place."
She said so far parents have not complained to her about Chief Moose's belated announcement, but she has noticed more parents are driving their children to school and picking them up.
The good news is that "children are coming to school," she said.
The Sniper has killed 10 persons and wounded three others since Oct. 2. One of his victims was a 13-year-old boy who was shot as he walked to school on Oct. 7.

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