North Carroll Middle flooded with calls after erroneous report of shooting

September 09, 2014|By Liz Bowie, The Baltimore Sun

North Carroll Middle School was flooded with phone calls Tuesday after an erroneous news report that a student had shot and killed herself inside the Hampstead school.

A 13-year-old girl at North Carroll Middle had committed suicide off school grounds, and school officials said teachers and counselors were talking to students about the loss of a fellow student during morning classes.

Dana Falls, director of student services for Carroll County Public Schools, said that shortly after noon, the school received a flood of calls from parents worried about the reports of violence. WJZ Television had sent out the erroneous report via Twitter and then posted it on its news website.

School administrators called the superintendent and within minutes sent out e-mail and text alerts to parents to tell them that news reports they might have heard were incorrect.

Carey Gaddis, a school system spokeswoman, said she had gotten a phone call from the television station asking if she could confirm that a student had died. She said she did because she knew about the incident, but she said she gave no other details.

K.C. Robertson, creative director and spokesman for WJZ, which has a content-sharing agreement with The Baltimore Sun, said, "We received initial information that the incident occurred at the school. The information proved inaccurate. ... We quickly issued a correction with the accurate information."

Despite the school's new bring-your-own-device policy for students, the false reports on social media did not cause any panic or confusion in the school. "Students didn't even know the rumor was out there," said Gaddis, who added that a few parents did come to see their children after the report.

Gaddis said the student was a girl but the school system and county sheriff's officials did not identify her.

Falls said he and other administrators were already at the school helping staff and students deal with the tragedy. Most students did not know about the girl's death until they got to school because it had happened just hours before and not enough time had elapsed for word to spread, even by social media.

Falls said teachers were informed about the death and talked to their students during class time. Students who were having difficulty with the news were given the opportunity to talk to guidance counselors. Falls said the school system had sent extra counselors to the school.

Baltimore Sun reporter Justin George and Carroll County Times news editor Wayne Carter contributed to this article.

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