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Updated: Thursday, 20 Dec 2012, 6:54 PM EST
Published : Thursday, 20 Dec 2012, 2:07 AM EST
KENDALLVILLE, Ind. (WANE) - After rumors of a possible shooting planned at East Noble High School, Kendallville police provided extra officers at the school on Thursday.
Thursday morning, East Noble School Corporation Superintendent Ann Linson said the reports were completely fake. Linson said administrators investigated the reports and found they were simply rumors.
Starting Wednesday, several emails and Facebook messages sent to NewsChannel 15 said rumors were circulating among students and parents about a possible shooting at the school, expected to be carried out on Thursday.
East Noble school leaders think the rumors started sometime in the past week. Some students are said to have overheard a conversation about the school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. Those students thought the conversation was about targeting East Noble, but leaders said it was not.
Kendallville police said the false reports got out of control when it hit social networking sites.
"There was just a lot of conversation back and fort over the social media that basically over time became exaggerated and caused a lot of concern for some of the students and their parents," said Rob Wiley, Kendallville chief of police. "It's a lot easier for those things to turn into sort of a viral rumor in an extremely short period of time."
Linson said once the rumors were posted on social networking sites, they took on a life of their own. The superintendent said she would advise parents and families in the school district to contact the school instead of contacting the media if they see these type of reports on social media sites.
The rumors were enough to upset many parents around Kendallville. Linson said 15 percent of students didn't come to school Thursday. Jessica Quesenberry had her 8th grade daughter, Taiylor Taulbee, stay home.
"I wasn’t going to take that chance on saying that’s a rumor," Quesenberry said. "Your child’s life is not something to be taken lightly."
Taulbee, 14, said after the shootings in Newtown and the rumors at her school, she doesn't know if she will ever feel safe at school again. Taulbee said the rumors made for a tense day for her friends who went to school Thursday.
"The ones that are at school that I'm emailing, they're terrified," Taulbee said. "The teachers are saying that it's not going to happen. It's just a rumor. But you never know."
An employee with Smith-Green Community Schools in Churubusco said schools there were put on a form of lockdown Thursday all because of anxiety over East Noble rumors.
Leaders with Fort Wayne Community Schools said almost all their high schools have had similar rumors of weapons and violence. They say those rumors are all false. Still, police and schools are using extra caution after the tragedy in Newtown.
The following letter was sent to parents in the East Noble School Corporation on Thursday:
Late Tuesday afternoon a teacher overheard a conversation between students that centered on a shooting. She informed the office and those kids were talked to by our administrative team along with our school resource officer. They did not offer any evidence, instead told us “that’s what they heard”. We talked to the kids they heard it from and got the same story. It wasn’t anything that was being reported as much as it was being retold. This went on for about 4 kids until we found a student who admitted that he was talking about the events of last Friday. After investigating this claim we felt confident that kids were reporting this overheard conversation.
Wednesday we received a couple more reports of kids hearing about a shooting, so we talked to each of them. The pattern of kids overhearing it from someone else was prevalent. We notified our teachers that there was rumors and asked them to keep their eyes and ears open and to report anything. We assured the staff that we had no evidence to suggest they were truthful. We had no further reports and the day remained relatively uneventful.
After school hours there began to be claims on Facebook of a shooting. The social media traffic intensified with these rumors. I was at the school board meeting until after 9:00pm, and didn’t become aware of the volume of concern. At that point I tried to personally address each phone call, email, and twitter response. I was getting more reports and couldn’t respond fast enough. I then worked on sending a mass media release from our ENSC site explaining what was happening. At the same time I sent out a tweet of my own. I tried to answer every response, including one from KPC. While all of this was happening late last night, I was communicating with our School Resource Officer to request additional security for today.
To date, we have had no reports of a shooter, no name, or no description
to substantiate any claims. We feel that this is a natural response to events last Friday, and fully understand the sensitive nature regarding children’s safety. I, like many of you, am a parent of a high school student, and as such feel confident enough to send my child to school as I would any other day.
We do have additional police here at the high school. You may or may not see them. This past week has been difficult for parents, school personnel, and society in general. We have spent the last couple of days reviewing our safety procedures with kids. I along with my administrative team and with all of the teachers will maintain a strong visible presence throughout the day. School safety is something that I and my staff take very serious, and we thank you for your support.
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