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District 205 violates its own media protocol
By Joe McGehee
Six students at Eisenhower Middle School were arrested in a drug bust Friday, Feb. 19, that Sgt. Mike Spelman of the Rockford Police School Liaison Unit described as “unique.”
Spelman said three male and three female students, ages 12-13, were arrested and charged with possession of cannabis. Two of the students were charged with intent to deliver, Spelman said. None of the students was carrying a weapon, and the incident is not gang-related, Spelman said.
Spelman also said only three other individuals have been arrested on possession charges this school year at Eisenhower.
Information surrounding the Feb. 19 arrest of the six students at Eisenhower was impossible to obtain from school officials as District 205 Chief Communications Officer Mark Bonne failed to return messages left for comment Friday, Feb. 19, Monday, Feb. 22, and Tuesday, Feb. 23.
The Rock River Times (TRRT) left six messages for Bonne Feb. 19—beginning with a message left with his assistant at approximately 1:58 p.m. All six messages went unreturned, and no information was obtained from the district’s chief communications officer as of close of business (5:30 p.m.) Feb. 19.
The last message left with Bonne at 5:19 p.m., Friday, Feb. 19, informed him that TRRT’s office closed at 5:30 p.m. and that TRRT would need to hear back from him by that time. At 5:55 p.m., Friday, Feb. 19, Bonne sent TRRT an e-mail stating he had tried calling TRRT’s office to provide information about the events at Eisenhower Middle School but received no answer and there was no voice mail (TRRT does not have voice mail service). No phone calls were received at TRRT’s office from Bonne prior to 5:30 p.m.
Bonne also said in the e-mail (which was received by TRRT at the beginning of the week Monday, Feb. 22) that he was away from the office and in meetings all afternoon Feb. 19.
According to District 205’s Media Response Protocol, which took effect at the beginning of February: “Staff will make every effort to return voice messages within the hour and provide responses to media inquiries as soon as possible and no later than by the end of the business day (5 p.m.) in which the request was made. If staff cannot produce the requested information before the end of the day, contact will be made to convey that additional time is needed.”
TRRT received e-mails from Bonne’s e-mail address Feb. 19, Feb. 22 and Feb. 23. Each of the e-mails contained press releases with positive news regarding District 205 schools. However, none of the e-mails mentioned the six arrests made at Eisenhower Feb. 19. No calls made to Bonne were returned on the days the e-mails were sent from Bonne’s e-mail address.
TRRT followed the District 205 Media Response Protocol, which requires all media requests go through the chief communications officer. All information gathered by TRRT about the events at Eisenhower was provided by Sgt. Spelman.
As of press time (5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 23) nine messages left for Bonne—six Friday, Feb. 19, one Monday, Feb. 22, and two Tuesday, Feb. 23—had gone unanswered, besides the e-mail sent by Bonne at 5:55 p.m., Friday, Feb. 19.
From the Feb. 24-Mar. 2, 2010 issue