WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — School officials from the Watertown City School District have addressed the media in regards to rumors circulating on social media.

This was through a press release issued by Watertown Superintendent Patricia LaBarr on Wednesday night.

According to LaBarr, rumors regarding a recent bed bug infestation have been spread online and intensified on social media. LaBarr said reports were inaccurate and the District does not have a bed bug problem.

Additionally, LaBarr added that stories and commentary regarding racially hostile environments in the District have also been made. She said that these stories have “further caused division” through the Watertown schools.

LaBarr concluded by asking media, social media users and citizens to “be responsible and mature” online.

“We need to come together as a community in order to return to a calm and focused educational environment for the sake of our children,” LaBarr expressed.

Superintendent LaBarr’s full statement regarding these issues can be read below:

Recently, there have been several media reports and social media reports about events involving students and staff members at Watertown City School District that are inaccurate. The inaccuracies being shared are having a significant negative effect, disrupting daily operations of the school buildings and creating a stressful and strained environment for students and staff. As Superintendent, I urge the media and the community to be responsible in their reporting and discussion of events in the media. The people who post on social media must also use caution in posting or commenting on such information. The ability for these posts and media reports to receive widespread attention are causing division and disruption in our schools.

For example, recent media reports about a claimed infestation of bed bugs was entirely inaccurate, yet receive widespread attention both in media reports and on social media. Be advised that the District does not have an infestation problem with bed bugs. The District has employed a professional pest control for many years to address issues that arise with bed bugs and other pests. The District buildings are sanitary, well-maintained, and are also subject to regular Health Department inspections. The District has been found to be in compliance with all Health Department regulations and there is no evidence of bed bug infestations.

Various other reports in the media about a claimed or alleged racially hostile environment existing in the District have only told one side of the story, causing others to speak out and further cause division. The effect of these stories has been to further disrupt the schools, increasing tension among students. The current position of the District to address these issues are confidential and we are prohibited by Federal and State law from providing details and/or comments.

There have also been media stories and commentary about personnel in the District. The public may be assured that all personnel issues are carefully examined and promptly addressed. However, the law and policy does not allow any comments to be made on these matters.

We urge the media, social media users, and citizens alike to be responsible and mature in reporting stories or posting on social media. These stories and the exaggerated statements that have been made have only contributed to division, distrust, and further hard feelings among students and have distracted from the business of school, educating our students. As a community, we should exercise caution in disputing our differences in the media or on social media. The District has multiple procedures and opportunities for making complaints or concerns known to the administration. We encourage members of the public, parents, and students alike to be responsible and use the complaint avenues appropriately.

We need to come together as a community in order to return to a calm and focused educational environment for the sake of our children.

Patricia LaBarr, Superintendent, Watertown City School District