Prankster locks down high school

Police nab student; Internet rumors fly
Reporter Editor

A prankster using a cell phone managed to lock down the Rockdale High School campus for an hour Thursday morning and trigger what amounted to a high-tech panic.

By day’s end the Rockdale ISD felt compelled to issue a letter to parents outlining what had actually happened, followed by an automated phone call the next day.

Police came to the campus and quickly arrested a 16-year-old male student who confessed to making the call about 10 a.m.

HIGH TECH— It’s not the first prank phone call to ever shut down an RISD campus. But it is the first one in the high-tech era of personal electronic devices.

“We’d leave one classroom, during the search, and find the students in the next room knew we were coming because they’d already been texted by those in the room we just left,” Police Chief Thomas Harris said.

Police said their 911 dispatcher received a 911 call about 10 a.m. saying someone on the campus had a weapon.

The RISD instituted its lockdown procedure and police came to RHS to track down the cell phone and caller.

Certain sections of the campus became the focus of the probe, students in the area were questioned, had their cellphones looked at, their backpacks and purses searched and were “patted down” by gender-appropriate school personnel.

Police found the phone and, eventually, the caller.

The 16-year-old was charged with making a false alarm or report and the matter was turned over to juvenile authorities.

Harris said the cell phone belonged to another student and had been inadvertently left in a school location where it was discovered by the prankster.

FACEBOOK— The incident was over in a hour, the school was released by police and classes were resumed.

But the incident had already hit Facebook, and other social media sites, and quickly went the smalltown equivalent of “viral.”

An estimated 40 parents came to the school during the lockdown and attempted to withdraw their students.

Many did so after the incident was over.

The Reporter received calls from members of the public who had heard there was a bomb on campus, there had been a shooting, police had found a weapon, or weapons, that there had been a drug arrest and that classes had been cancelled.

None of those were true.

The RISD’s letter, written by Supt. Dr. Howell Wright, pointed out that there was never a weapon on campus and that students and staff were safe at all times.

“The good news is that the (security/lockdown) plan worked,” he said. “We are taking what we have learned from our staff, our parents and our students to improve the plan.”

Dr. Wright said RISD does not tolerate “this type of behavior” and promised “it will be handled appropriately by the campus administration.”

Harris said police asked the student why he made the prank call.

“He said he wanted to see what would happen in a lockdown,” Harris said.

See column, High tech gets an ‘F’, page 5A.

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2010-12-16 digital edition

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