School superintendents in the Ferguson, Mo., area will get 24-hour advance notice if a grand jury reaches a decision in the Michael Brown shooting case on a weekend and three hours notice if the decision is made on a weekday, according to one district in the area.
The school districts last month sent a letter to St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch asking for any decision to be released on the weekend or after school hours on a weekday.
A 12-member grand jury has been hearing testimony to determine whether to indict Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed 19-year-old, on Aug. 9. The circumstances surrounding the shooting still remain murky.
The shooting was followed by violent protests, a heavily militarized police response, and a call for a review of the nation’s policing tactics. Schools in the area were forced to close for days as the protests raged.
The communities—law enforcement officials, churches, schools, residents, and business owners—in and around the Ferguson area are again on edge as they await the grand jury’s decision, which is expected to come as early as Nov. 16.
Businesses and police are bracing for protests if the officer is not indicted. The Wall Street Journal reported that businesses were boarding up windows and the police were stocking up on tear gas in anticipation of unrest.
Last week, students in the Jennings School District, which borders Ferguson, marched to City Hall carrying handmade placards and urging a nonviolent response.
In the nearby Hazelwood district, Superintendent Grayling Tobias posted a letter to parents on the district’s website this week to inform parents of the arrangement with the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office.
Tobias said the three-hour advance notice for the weekday announcement will give the district enough time to ensure that students arrive home safely.
The districts have been proactive in asking parents to update their emergency contact information, which will be used for notification. Hazelwood also said that it has reviewed its bus transportation routes and will reroute buses for students who have been displaced.
The district has also met with a number of faith-based organizations to discuss providing food and shelter for the community.
The St. Louis American reports that a group of 11 churches has come together to pledge support, including food and educational counseling, to students and families in Riverview Gardens and Ferguson-Florissant districts in the wake of any grand jury decision that may disrupt schools.
The paper also reported that Riverview Gardens is hoping to partner with the library to ensure educational continuity in the event that schools are closed because of any unrest.
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.