High-tech gets an ‘F’ in would-be crisis
Mike Brown
I’m not about to quit using the Internet, cellphones or personal electronic devices and neither are you.

But there are times when I think I want to pile them all in the middle of the street, rent one of those things the highway department uses to roll down roadways and smash them to bits. Or bytes.

Thursday was one of those times.

Here’s what actually happened, no matter what you may have read on Facebook, been texted on your Blackberry or tweeted on your, uh, tweeter.

A 16-year-old student whose curiosity far exceeded his judgement and his sense of responsibility, picked up a cellphone—not his—called 911 and informed the operator an intruder had a weapon at the high school.

It wasn’t true.

The campus was locked down, police responded, searched the school, found no weapon, figured out who made the call, caught him, asked him why he did it.

The student confessed and said he wanted to find out what would happen in the event of a lockdown.

What happened was, he was arrested for making a false alarm or report.

It wasn’t the first time something like this has happened. We’ve unfortunately had several instances of prank calls to schools in past years.

This time, though, it happened in a society where it seems everyone over age seven has a personal communications device.

Police found their searches of classrooms were no secrets, certainly no secret to the perpetrator for whom they were searching.

“We’d leave one classroom and the students in there had already texted the students in the next one,” Police Chief Thomas Harris said. “They knew where we had been and where we were going.

In the middle of it about 50 parents showed up at the locked down school and tried to take their students home.

Many did anyway after it was over. How did they know what was going on? High-tech again.

Except the trouble with hightech is it’s not always true-tech.

Here’s what I heard Thursday and I’m sure this was by no means an exhaustive list:

• There was a bomb in the school.

• Somebody was shot.

• Police found a gun and/or made a drug arrest.

• Classes were cancelled and everyone was sent home.

• Police and school officials lied about the incident being a prank, it was “real,” whatever that meant.

None of those were true.

Now let’s back up and assume— Please, God, that it never happens— that Thursday’s call was not a wacky kid who stumbled onto a phone but the real thing.

You would have a gunman in a school knowing where the police were as they searched for him.

Depending on his state of mind, the gunman could elude capture and pick more targets or—when they were closing in and he would know it—take down as many kids and teachers as he could before either shooting himself or electing “suicide by cop.”

And what about all the parents who showed up trying to get into a locked down school? Lots more targets, lots more people for the police and school authorities to protect, lots more confusion.

The reason for instituting a lockdown is precisely for limiting access to a secured area.

Then there’s the troubling issue of who, and what, people choose to trust.

It’s disheartening that some (many?) chose to believe the E-version of reality instead of trusting the two entities, police and school officials, who did such a professional and excellent job of protecting our students.

Yes, our students. I had one in that school Thursday, too.

Ironically, what we found out Thursday is that the lockdown procedure works. Thanks to some excellent work by dispatchers Monica Baxter and Shanna Goodrich and the rest of the police force, the perpetrator was apprehended.

Report card: Police, A; School, A; high tech, F.

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2010-12-16 digital edition

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