LAWRENCE: Superintendent responds to ‘misleading’ online reports about guns, drug use in schools

By James McEvoy, Special Writer
LAWRENCE — The school district’s top administrator defended township schools amid recent online publications she said painted the district in poor and misleading light.
During the Nov. 11 board meeting, Superintendent Crystal Edwards criticized a story published on a local online news website regarding a recent controversy in which elementary school students were reportedly given an assignment to consider how they would respond if they contracted a sexually transmitted disease.
The school in question — Myron L. Powell Elementary School — is located in Lawrence Township, but in Cumberland County.
“This is not us,” Dr. Edwards said. “It’s not one of our schools so I feel like I need to take a moment right now to educate people.”
The story, published Nov. 9, remains online, but does note the school’s location in South Jersey. Commenters called for the story, which relies heavily on NBC10 reporting, to be removed to avoid further misunderstanding.
In addition, Dr. Edwards criticized another Nov. 9 story on the same site regarding bullying in schools accompanied with an apparent stock image that depicts a gun being placed in a book bag.
“Number one: there are no guns in our schools. That picture is very misleading and I think it’s designed to be that way,” she said, noting while the report accurately stated figures from the 2014-15 school year, it did not include data from the previous year that would illustrate improving behavioral trends.
“I stand by our numbers,” Dr. Edwards said, pointing to the 139 incidents reported during the 2013-14 school year.
She also said the story did not discuss district protocols and how diligent staff is in reporting incidents and following up with students, including counseling efforts.
“I’m not sitting here saying our schools are perfect, our kids are perfect. They are not. We do have problems and we do have issues, but what I am saying is to you is that I’m very, very proud of my staff that we don’t turn a blind eye to the problems that exist in our schools,” she said.
“As much as I would love to be in the paper showcasing the wonderful things that we do, when I see things like this for the purpose of sensationalizing things that are happening in schools it does disturb me,” she said. “All you get is the picture and the number.” 