UPDATE (4:30 p.m.)—Police said at a press conference on Wednesday that rumors spreading on social media of planned school shootings on Friday have all been investigated and found to be not credible.
Lt. J.D. Batten, who is charge of school security for Anne Arundel County, said some shooting rumors have come from students saying they heard it from others. The press conference was held Wednesday morning at the central office of Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS) to address the rumors that are circulating at multiple schools.
"Thus far, we have found no truth to any of it," Batten said.
He said a student at an Anne Arundel County school texted a friend: "Don't go to school on Friday because I heard there was going to be a shooting."
That text message was sent to the wrong friend, and ended up in the hands of a police department in California, which tracked down the source and contacted county police. Within a few hours, Anne Arundel County police officers were interviewing the student, asking her where she heard the information.
"As it turned out, it was just, 'I heard from somebody else a rumor that this was going to happen,' so it was completely unfounded," Batten said.
Batten said social media has exacerbated the spread of rumors like these, particularly in the wake of the school shooting in Connecticut. However, Batten emphasized that the department was trained to deal with cases like these and urged parents to remain calm.
Schools Superintendent Kevin Maxwell said school resource officers have played a large role in keeping schools safe, and regular drills help to keep faculty on their toes, but there were no plans announced to expand security measures in the long-term.
However, there will be an additional police presence on Friday at county schools.
"They [students] may see a few more uniformed police officers, but anything else that may be in place, they're probably not going to see," Maxwell said.
Maxwell also stressed that any student found to have started rumors could be punished. Any student with information on an attack is urged to contact authorities by calling 911 or call the Student Safety Hotline at 877-676-9854.
County Executive John R. Leopold began the press conference by saying that there was a growing need to address mental health concerns in the state. He and school officials will address the topic at a mental health summit in February at Anne Arundel Community College, he said.
"There's a great need, and we need to prioritize these mental health issues," Leopold said.
Parents received the following message via phone and email from AACPS on Wednesday afternoon:
Hello parents, this is Anne Arundel County Public Schools emailing with important information about school operations for the remainder of the week. As you are no doubt aware, a number of our schools have been mentioned in rumors about violence on Friday of this week. We are working with county police, and at this time none of the rumors has been deemed credible. We will continue to be vigilant in investigating these rumors. All Anne Arundel County schools will operate on normal schedules on Thursday and Friday, and police will be providing an increased presence around schools. It is important to note that while parents and students may notice some of that presence, other aspects of it will not be noticeable. Finally, if you receive credible information that needs to be communicated to police or schools, please call 911 or the Student Safety Hotline at 1-877-676-9854. Thank you, and have a good day.