“That’s Where It Broke Down:” CMS Supt. Explains District’s Communication, Decisions

MATTHEWS, N.C. – In the minutes after Monday morning’s deadly shooting, an “information lull,” as CMS Superintendent Clayton Wilcox called it, while the district says it gathered information, compounded fear and confusion for some parents. Wilcox says, “I understand, absolutely, a parent not knowing what was happening would want to get to their child. I think that’s where it broke down.”

“With that much anxiety, communication break downs are just the cherry on top of a really bad start to a Monday,” says Butler parent Kyle Clements. He and his wife, Beth, decided to leave a staging area at Elevation Church’s Matthews location, and go directly to Butler High School to get their daughter, after hearing this: “We were at the church, we were told, I believe, by a police officer, that CMS would like you to keep your kids in class and, just everybody gasped, we could not believe it,” says Beth.

CMS also put out a Facebook post, saying in part that “Classes will proceed on campus today…” The decision prompted comments like: “I couldn’t believe that when they first said it” and “I can’t believe reasonable adults can come to that decision” and even a blunt, “What the hell?”

Wilcox says about 100 kids, of the school’s roughly 2,200, remained on campus til the final bell. WCCB News @ Ten anchor Morgan Fogarty asked him, “Why was it not possible for them to be taken off campus, maybe to Elevation Church, maybe to a library, somewhere else that is not an active crime scene?” Wilcox answered, “You know, it was at a crossroads, where multiple hallways came out in the same area, we would have to release kids out into the open, we just didn’t wanna do that at the time. So, it was a decision that we made to keep kids safe, and I think I’d make the same decision again, but what we would try to do is increase our communication.”

But the Clements say they watched dozens of students rush through school doors, into the open. They say before today, they assumed CMS was ready. Beth says, “If this was the very first school shooting in the history of school shootings, in the history of the world, this isn’t (even) the first school shooting in North Carolina. This was something they should have been ready for.”

Wilcox says district leaders are going to “go back to square one and see how they can do a better and more effective job of communicating with parents.” He’ll says he’ll start meetings this week, to come up with those answers.