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Rumors of shooting prompt parents to flock to East High School

By KBell
Feb. 2, 2012 at 7:02 p.m.
Updated Feb. 2, 2012 at 8:03 p.m.

Victoria Police Sgt. Felix Appelt answers questions from parents at Victoria East High School who came to pick up their kids due to an unsubstantiated rumor of a shooting.

TIP LINE

Police encourage anyone who hears of threats to call the Crime Stoppers tip line at 361-572-4200. Callers can remain anonymous.

Rumors swelled Thursday of a fight involving guns at Victoria East High School, prompting dozens of parents to remove their kids from classes.

Police said the unsubstantiated rumor appeared to have started on Facebook following what they called a gang-related assault at the school on Wednesday.

As early as 11 a.m., word had spread to parents, who by the afternoon were lined up outside the high school's doors, waiting to sign out students.

"If someone actually has information about a true impending act of violence, the last place they need to put it is on Facebook. The first thing they need to do is notify the police department or school administration," said Diane Boyett, Victoria school communications specialist. "Facebook can't confiscate a weapon. Facebook can't arrest anyone. And Facebook can't investigate rumors or crimes."

A few police officers were at the school Thursday as an extra precaution, though both Victoria school officials and police said students were not in danger.

Sgt. Felix Appelt said police were determined to pin down who started the rumor. If police find the source created the rumor intentionally, Appelt said, they will pursue a charge of creating a false alarm or report, a Class A misdemeanor.

One student, sophomore Kristen Cisneros, said she heard the rumor of a possible shooting around 1 p.m. She and several other girls called their parents from the bathroom.

"Somebody was leaving every five minutes. It was hectic," she said. "I just didn't want to be in the building ... everybody was shaking."

Kristen said the school's administration maintained a heavy presence throughout the day, walking through classrooms and talking to students at lunch.

Boyett said the school did not go into a lockdown but remained on high alert. The goal in a rumor-filled situation is to assure students and staff the threat is unsubstantiated and to remain calm, Boyett said.

"The first and foremost thing is that you would tell those students if you know this information, you need to tell us," Boyett said. "I strongly encourage that if any student hears a rumor - before they repeat that rumor to another student - that they be willing to tell their parent exactly who it was that told them that."

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