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Student charged in high school hoax
Magistrate bars Flowery Branch senior from Internet, cellphone, social media use
0130arrest-Tiffani Torres
Tiffani Torres

A Flowery Branch High School student has been charged in a social media incident that spurred an investigation Monday by state and local authorities and resulted in some 1,000 students checking out of school.

Hall County sheriff’s investigators arrested Tiffani Torres, 18, Tuesday morning at her home. She was charged with one count of disruption of a public school.

She was booked into the Hall County Jail, where a $1,000 bond was set after a first appearance hearing. The Hall County magistrate imposed several conditions, including that she doesn’t access social media, the Internet or use her cellphone, and that she keeps a 10 p.m. curfew.

Torres requested a court-appointed lawyer, and a probable cause hearing was set for Feb. 13 in Hall Magistrate Court.

A senior, she has been suspended from school pending a disciplinary tribunal, said Gordon Higgins, spokesman for the Hall County school system.

She is accused of using the social photo-sharing site Instagram to fabricate “knowledge of a shooting that was allegedly going to take place, knowing there was no fact to it,” said Sgt. Kiley Sargent, sheriff’s office spokesman.

“During our investigation, it was determined Torres fabricated the entire conversation with the intent to intimidate those who were part of the conversation (with others).”

Sargent declined to give further details of what was posted.

The sheriff’s office’s computer forensic investigator, along with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, was able to track down Torres through her Internet provider address, he said.

Authorities have said that throughout the incident, students and staff were never in danger.

But that didn’t stop word from spreading quickly Monday morning.

The warrant for Torres’ arrest states that her comments “concerning a plot to shoot students in school ... resulted in mass panic, chaos, fear and confusion for the students and staff.”

Disruption of a public school is a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

“The reason the charge isn’t terroristic threats is because the comments were not directed to a specific person,” Sargent said.

The incident first came to public attention “when a parent of a (Flowery Branch) student, who had received the message, called principal Mark Coleman” about 8 a.m., Higgins said.

Coleman “immediately contacted law enforcement and the superintendent’s office,” Higgins said.

The school went into a “gray lockdown” that involved “a lot of adults out in the hall securing all the outdoor entrances,” Superintendent Will Schofield said, addressing the issue at the Hall County Board of Education meeting Monday night.

That lesser level of lockdown is employed when “the school is on heightened alert, but no specific, immediate threat has been confirmed,” Higgins said.

By 10:30 a.m., Coleman had announced to the school what had happened.

The mass exodus of students went “orderly,” Schofield said.

“And the vast majority of our parents were very supportive,” he added. “Dr. Coleman and his staff and the sheriff’s (office) did a great job.”

The school system had offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to arrest.

As of Tuesday, there was “no evidence of a tip leading to arrest,” Higgins said.

Staff writer Emma Witman contributed to this report.