The Virginia Tech shooting could have people here in Oklahoma on edge. There have been rumors of death threats at two area schools. Luckily, neither threat turned out to be true. School officials say to some extent, that's just the way it is nowadays. The News On 6â€™s Steve Berg reports the turning point was the Columbine shootings, which were 8 years ago on Friday.
The first incident happened Thursday, when a convenience store clerk overheard someone talking about a student at Broken Arrow's North Intermediate school.
"They said a North student had a hit list. That is what the rumor was that a North student had a hit list," said Steve Cowen with Broken Arrow Public Schools.
Police interviewed the student and his parents, who they say were very cooperative, and the rumor proved to be just that, a rumor. Even though, spokesman Steve Cowen says they implemented their usual procedure.
"We got an e-mail put together to let parents know exactly what was happening, sent that out from North, and there were probably 800 to 1,000 e-mails sent out, over half the campus," he said.
Despite that, the rumor of the hit list persisted.
On the other side of town, a similar fear erupted, this time because the police were at Charles Page High School in Sand Springs. It was part of a routine search by the department's drug dog, but here too, rumors of violence spread throughout the school.
"When you drive by the high school and you see two or three police cars, you see drug dogs, all of a sudden that does kind of sometimes send alarm bells," said Assistant Superintendent Robert Franklin.
Assistant Superintendent Franklin figures the Virginia Tech story probably has people on edge. And this is also the anniversary of the Columbine shootings.
Cowen wants to reassure parents they plan and practice for emergencies frequently.
"Whether it be something like Columbine, like a shooting, or any emergency response, like a tornado. Evaluate those things, how you handle those things," Cowen said.
Franklin meanwhile says nowadays they dig deeper into what prompts any fights to check for any longstanding feuds or bullying. And they've toughened the punishments.
"That suspension for fighting is equally as difficult as a suspension for marijuana, so get ready, if you go there, get ready," Franklin said.
School officials say they also want to keep parents informed without scaring them needlessly. And they say that can be a difficult balancing act as well. They don't want to delay information, but they say they want to make sure it's accurate too.
4/16/2007 Heightened Security Planned At Local Universities
4/16/2007 OSU Reacts To Monday's Shooting In Virginia
4/17/2007 Colleges Turning To Local Security Company For Help
4/17/2007 Reporting Campus Crime Statistics
4/18/2007 Threat Prompts Extra Security At High School
4/19/2007 13-Year-Old Arrested For Bringing A Gun To School
4/19/2007 Parents Respond To Middle School Gun Incident
4/20/2007 Bogus Threat Keeps Police Busy
Watch the video: School Violence Becoming Major Concern