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Rumors send schools into a panic

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April 20, 2007

Moultrie  --   Rumors that a student would go on a shooting spree at Colquitt County High School caused hundreds parents to pull their children out of school. After this week's shootings at Virginia Tech, many Colquitt County parents weren't taking chances.

Lines of cars pulled up outside the school this morning and students filed out. There was a heavy police presence outside the high school on all sides, and school administrators took steps to tell parents and students that the threat was a hoax, and had been handled. 

But the parents and students decided that any threat was too real at this time, and took their kids home.

A bomb threat was called in to C. A. Gray Middle School around 10:30, and parents lined up outside the school to take their children.  Long lines caused some confusion at the school, but administrators checked out the students as fast as they could.

A ninth grade girl at Colquitt County High was taken out of school after she wrote an Internet blog that glorified the shooting massacre at Virginia Tech.

Parents were jolted when they received an automated message from the Colquitt County School system, that there were threats of violence at the school.

That message and a posting on the school website led to the withdrawal of hundreds of students.

11th grader Laurean Stripling said "A girl was going to come to school or something, and shoot people, and everyone was kind of scared."

The rumors grew across the whole community to parents at work.  Parent  David Hawkins said "I saw a guy run out this morning and he came back and told me somebody got shot at the high school and it scared me."

Superintendent Leonard McCoy sent out the automated phone message at 8:30 to all parents, trying to stop the growing rumors. "This morning rumors began to grow, and it's been absolutely unbelievable."

Despite the message, and police surrounding the school for added security, parents began to come by the hundreds to get their kids.  Parent Beth Stripling said "I don't want them to live in fear. I don't want them to feel like they have to stay home because of danger, but when I feel like the day has become unproductive, it's time to go home."

The ninth grader who sent the Internet message was kept out of school today, but despite assurances there was no threat, parents and students wanted to leave.

Ninth Grader Kayla Hawkins said "I was not worried about it at first, and then everybody started to leave, so I was like, well, better leave."

After a  bomb threat was called at 10:30 to C. A. Gray Middle School, parents lined up to check out their kids, the line extending outside.

Parent Barbara Gilbert said "They had a bomb threat and now I gotta go to Cox Elementary. They claim they are having a shootout.  So I gotta pick up my little girl. [I'm] very scared."

 Jennifer Lewis said, "Do you really think there is danger?  I don't know. I'm not going to take that chance."

One half of all the middle schools students left early, and two thirds of the high school students checked out.  Rumors of violence panicking the community, despite all assurances from school administrators that their students were protected.

School administrators say they will learn from today's events. They say parents should not be afraid to send their kids to school Monday.

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