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Texting error leads to lockdowns at West Hall middle, high schools

Message should have said "gunna" as in "going to" but changed to "gunman"

POSTED: March 1, 2012 12:21 a.m.

An auto corrected text message, accidentally sent to the wrong number, was the catalyst to lockdowns Wednesday at West Hall middle and high schools.

Just before noon, law enforcement and school officials issued the lockdowns after a West Hall community member reported a threatening text message.

The text, saying "gunman be at west hall today," was received and reported to police around 11:30 a.m. But after police tracked the number, they learned the auto correct feature on the new cellphone changed "gunna" to "gunman."
The message being sent to the wrong number added to the confusion.

As law enforcement learned of the text message, the schools were notified to go into lockdown as authorities investigated the origins of the message.

"The school system always relies on law enforcement for school safety and anytime they request a lockdown we go with that request," said Gordon Higgins, Hall County Schools spokesman. "We always take every precaution concerning a potential threat or danger."

Authorities say the person who received the message "did the right thing."

"It was a combination of odd circumstances," said Sgt. Stephen Wilbanks of the Hall County Sheriff's Office. "We want to emphasize that the recipient did the right thing in reporting the message."

Hall Superintendent Will Schofield said in a statement that locking down the campuses was "standard procedure" and he was pleased with the handling of the situation.

"I am extremely proud of our school team members as they handled a challenging situation well," he said. "While this event caused a great deal of anxiety among students, staff and parents, be assured that we will always err on the side of caution when it comes to the safety of our boys and girls."

School officials say safety is their top priority and that giving information to parents as it becomes available is essential.

"What we try to do is give parents the best information when we have it," Higgins said.

The lockdown was eventually lifted around 1:45 p.m.

This event comes just days after three students were killed at Chardon High School in Ohio, adding to an already stressful situation.

Higgins said the time frame between the two events could have had an impact on today's events and the way they were handled.

He also said threats happen at schools, but generally come from students. This, he said, was the first time in recent memory that a community member reported a threat.



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