Arkansas High School Bans Cell Phones After Text-Messaging Scare

Published: January 3, 2008

AUGUSTA, Ark. – School officials at an Augusta high school plan to ban the use of cell phones after rumors circulated via text messaging that there would be a shoot-out at the school.

The rumors at Augusta High School began on Dec. 17, shortly after police found a 16-year-old student hanged at his residence. The following day, police said they received calls from concerned parents who had heard rumored threats of a shooting at the campus.

On Dec. 19, the sheriff’s deputy and police were on hand, in addition to district officials who used handheld metal detectors to scan everyone entering the school. As officials searched bags for weapons, only cell phones were found.

Once the searches were completed, massive text-messaged rumors began circulating, according to superintendent Richard Blevins.

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Frightened parents rushed to the campus to pick up their children. By 10 a.m., only 25 students at the 200-student high school remained at the nearby elementary school.

Police in Searcy, a neighboring city, asked if police in Augusta needed assistance, as they had received reports of a shooting. Ambulances had also been sent to the school for support.

Police and school officials soon realized the rumors were an attempt for students to avoid final exams.

When winter break is over, the high school will enforce a zero-tolerance policy on cell phones. An investigation has also been planned to determine who began the rumor. When found, the person responsible will be expelled.

Police said criminal charges are not likely because the source of the problem started from a rumor.

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