Out-of-control social media gossip, rumors and text messages led to an errant belief Thursday that a threat of a school shooting had been directed at Brownwood High School, school and police officials said.
As rumors of the supposed threat spread throughout a wild day, a number of parents went to the school checked their sons and daughters out of the school.
School Superintendent Dr. Joe Young issued a written statement Thursday morning and a second statement Thursday afternoon.
In the emailed statement Thursday afternoon, Young said several adults outside the school district “began discussing Brownwood High School via text message. These text messages included discussions on school safety.”
One of the adults believed she was texting a friend and parent of a Brownwood High School student, but the phone was being carried by the student instead, Young said.
The adult asked in that text message, “Have you heard anything of the school shooter threat at BHS?” Young said.
“The student, understandably, was disturbed by the text which came from a number the student did
not recognize. Discussions about this text spread rapidly and rumors began about a threat.
“There was no threat.”
The Brownwood school district takes any threat, even a misinterpreted rumor, seriously and school officials sent out a notification based on the information they had at that time, Young said.
“We began an investigation along with the Brownwood Police Department and were able to track down the adult texts which led to this scenario,” Young said.
“Student and staff safety is of the utmost
importance to us. In the age of immediate texts, sensational headlines, and social media, seemingly innocent words taken out of context are dangerous.
“Please help us continue to focus on
educating our youth by carefully discussing these volatile issues. I personally applaud the student who took the text seriously and alerted school officials. Thank you to the Brownwood Police Department who tracked down the sources and provided heightened visibility during the day while the entire series of events could be established.”
It was not immediately clear what prompted the adult to ask about a school shooting threat when the adult texted a phone carried by a student.
“No idea. She would be the one to ask. We had nothing prior to this which would lead to that statement,” Young said via email in response to a question emailed from the Bulletin. “I did not see all the texts between the adults to know how it went.”
Young was also asked if Thursday’s events were from the fallout from a school fight Tuesday between two students. Following that fight, which occurred in the student center and was witnessed by a large group of students, gossip and rumors swirled on social media.
“Only a guess,” Young replied via email. “I would assume that instigated the text conversation about school and safety. Seems logical.”
Assistant Police Chief James Fuller said a frenzy on social media and rumors “spiraled out of control before law enforcement could track down the source.
“The school district and police department went through great effort to ensure the safety of the kids today,” Fuller said.