A group of school superintendents is bracing for a grand jury’s decision on whether or not to charge a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown Jr. by asking the county prosecutor to hold off on releasing a decision until after school hours.
In a letter to St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch, the group asked that McCulloch’s office agree to announce a decision after 5 p.m. on weekdays or on the weekend, “with our preference of the announcement from the grand jury occurring on a Sunday, which is a non-attendance day for students.” The prosecutor’s office has said it expects a decision from the grand jury in mid-November.
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The letter is dated Oct. 22 and was sent by Dr. Scott Spurgeon, superintendent of the Riverview Gardens Schools District, and signed by superintendents from six other local public school districts.
Many locals don’t believe that the officer, Darren Wilson, will be indicted in Brown’s killing, which spurred local and national outrage and protests. Some fear that a decision not to indict Wilson, who shot and killed Brown during an altercation on Aug. 9, will spark a violent backlash. Local and state law enforcement officials have reportedly been consulting with federal authorities to develop a regional response in case Wilson is not indicted. Many protesters are bracing for what would undoubtedly be an emotional let down for them, and businesses are hunkering down and being urged to develop contingency plans.
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McCulloch has been criticized for his handling of the grand jury process and there have been calls for him to step down and be replaced by a special prosecutor. Critics point to his close ties to law enforcement and four cases in which McCulloch did not to secure an indictment for or prosecute white police officers who shot and killed unarmed black men.
The superintendents’ letter stated that it has many concerns regarding the student safety in the wake of the grand jury’s decision.
“As leaders of school districts, we are concerned about the ability to provide timely, unobstructed travel routes to and from school for the thousands of student walkers, parents and district transportation vehicles once that decision is announced,” the letter stated. “Information released during the school day has the potential to greatly affect school district operations and we implore you to refrain from making a grand jury announcement until such time as we can provide safe passage home for all students.”
The letter continued, saying that an influx of media, protests and police activity has created a logistics headache for travel in the area since Brown’s killing.
“We are preparing for a similar situation when the grand jury decision is announced,” according to the letter, which said approximately 20,000 students could be impacted by decision-related activity.
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Daphne Dorsey, a spokesperson for the Normandy school district, which Brown graduated from just days before he was killed, said the letter was sent out of an abundance of caution.
“We are in the planning stages right now,” Dorsey said. “The thinking behind the letter was to let it be known that as a group of superintendents we took the safety of our students into consideration and hopefully, when the decision is made related to the information released by the grand jury, that the same consideration is given by the prosecutor’s office as well.”