The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

April 5, 2013

Social media spurs school threat rumor

No threat was made against Elkmont High School

By Kim West

— Rumors alleging an Elkmont High School student made a threat against the school went viral despite being false, according to the superintendent of Limestone County Schools.

Dr. Tom Sisk said Elkmont Principal Stan Davis became aware of the situation Thursday, and conducted an immediate investigation leading to the accused student being cleared of any wrongdoing.

Despite the lack of an actual threat, Sisk said rumors continued to circulate through social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter.

Enough parents withheld their children from attending school Friday to prompt the Central Office to issue an automated AlertNow phone message to all Elkmont parents on Friday morning.

Sisk said the message was sent to allay parents’ concerns and dispel the rumors, which he characterized as “completely false.” He said an AlertNow message generally is not issued if there is not a threatening situation.

“The rumor of an alleged threat had no merit, and at no time was there any threat to the students or the school,” said Sisk, who does not regularly use social media. “When (social media) impacts instructional effectiveness, I become concerned … there are over 9,100 students and 1,200 employees in the school system, and we would have to hire someone just to monitor all of their Facebook accounts and Twitter (feeds).”

Sisk said access to Facebook has been made unavailable through the county's computer system primarily due to the amount of bandwith used by the social media web site.

Elkmont has 1,026 students in grades K-12 and 83 staff members, according to the school website. It was unclear how many students were absent Friday due to the rumors.

In addition to the Elkmont school resource officer, the Sheriff’s Office assigned two additional deputies on Friday as reassurance, Sisk said. The superintendent said the deputies were not on campus to monitor the student who allegedly made the threat.