Text Message 'Miscommunication' Puts Three New Jersey Schools On Lockdown

from the all-that's-missing-is-the-ONLY-detail-that-matters dept

Today's dose of paranoia and confusion comes to us courtesy of RyanNerd. We've seen schools react badly to perceived threats before, but the lack of a single crucial detail makes it impossible to determine whether this incident is one of those cases. What we do know is that three New Jersey schools were locked down and swarmed by police officers as the result of a single text from a student to a parent.

According to the New York Daily News, the culprit was autocorrect.

A panicked mom called local police and sparked a three-hour lock down of South Plainfield High School in New Jersey, officials told The Daily News.

"It created a heck of a mess," Schools Superintedent Stephen Genco told The Daily News.

Genco did not disclose exactly what the text message said, but said it involved the kid's phone not working.

"Auto correct created a situation where it looked like it was something totally different," he said.
For three hours, students were kept in their classrooms while buildings, backpacks and lockers were searched by law enforcement. In at least one school, students were searched as well.

The district issued an all-clear at 1:30pm, three hours after the panic began. A statement was issued by the district, which failed to address the content of the text message, but gave a lot of credit to the district's lockdown drills.
As you know, today there was an incident that caused authorities to put the HS , Middle School and Grant into a lockdown situation. The police have concluded their investigation and have determined that there was no threat. Currently the police are concluding their procedures and have authorized the reopening of all three buildings. All procedures were followed and it was clear that the practice drills we hold in each of our schools assisted in readying the students and staff for this incident. Thank you for your patience and support.
Even the Borough of South Plainfield felt moved to issue a statement via its Facebook page.
South Plainfield High School, Middle School and Grant School were all on lockdown earlier today. There was a miscommunication from a student to parent that caused a call into the Borough's 911 center. Police were required to investigate and initiate lockdown procedures. It was a miscommunication. The reports of arrests are totally false. everyone is safe.
Throughout all this communication, everyone involved has taken great care to withhold the content of the text that kicked off the three-school lockdown.

Here's what can be ascertained from the smattering of facts dispersed across several articles.
1. A text was sent by a student to a parent.
2. This text was misinterpreted by the parent, either due to the student's own error or the unforced error of autocorrect.
3. The student's parent contacted the local police.
4. Police swarmed three schools, which were all placed on lockdown for three hours.
5. Nothing was discovered, no arrests were made and the all-clear was sounded.
One report contains this speculative statement from district superintendent Stephen Genco.
Genco said there were “several rumors,” including that someone was bringing a gun to the high school’s pep rally Friday.
So, why is this text being withheld? The school could make the argument that the involvement of a minor raises privacy issues and thus, the text's content must be withheld. But this conspicuous omission hardly seems to be policy-related. Superintendent Genco never broaches the subject of district policy which is normally the first card played during iffy situations like these. Someone's embarrassed about their reaction. Whether it's the parent, the local PD or the school district remains to be seen. Somehow a text about a malfunctioning phone resulted in a police sweep (with K9 units) and lockdown of three schools, but so far, none of the reassuring voices (school, PD, city officials) have come forward to show the public exactly what mistake was made and how it was interpreted as a potential threat. (Here's how it could have happened...) More questions than answers here, I'm afraid, and that makes it tough to gauge the appropriateness of this response.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2014 @ 4:12am

    This sort of thing is getting to be such a routine event that I hardly even notice any longer.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jan 7th, 2014 @ 4:29am

    I'm betting they are afraid of releasing the text because it's something such as the student saying "Omg mom, the day is gonna be explosive!" or instead of saying "I forgot to bring the comb!" the corrector replaced with bomb.. Or maybe it was a girl and she sent a pic of the guy pretending to shot her heart (flirting) but the gesture was mistaken for some serial shooter pattern.. Regardless of the case it's all about national security baby!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Jan 7th, 2014 @ 4:31am

    Re:

    And that's the problem when the abuses, hysteria, violence, rape etc become all too common. We become insensitive to it and stop being outraged or start accepting as something that can't be changed. And this makes taking action even harder for people in general. This is dangerous in many ways.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    Anonymous Howard (profile), Jan 7th, 2014 @ 4:36am

    Re: Re:

    This is the direct result of FUDding, state sponsored Tehrorism(TM) and hysteria that you're in mortal danger.

    Bin Laden was right: he didn't have to lift a finger, because your government and corporations do the job for him.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2014 @ 5:17am

    Re:

    I hope that they do not impose a lock-down for a bomb threat; as the correct response is an evacuation to get people clear of the bomb.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Bengie, Jan 7th, 2014 @ 5:19am

    Re: Re:

    Ahh, yes, but people need to get less excitable about reoccurring events, otherwise stress takes over and health deteriorates.

    Same thing happens when you're a child and someone plays "peek-a-boo" with you and it's so fun an exciting, but after a while, you get bored with it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2014 @ 5:23am

    I'm guessing it was to Mr. Bob until AC added the m.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2014 @ 5:58am

    'gave a lot of credit to the district's lockdown drills'

    anyone expect anything different? this was an ideal time to praise the steps that didn't need to be taken, that hopefully wont ever be taken. you cant beat a good excuse for praising the unnecessary!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2014 @ 6:05am

    Um... so if a parent receives a text message that says "gunman to be at school later" instead of "gonna be at school later" because of an auto-correct mistake, the parent and police should ignore it? What should the proper response be?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    RyanNerd (profile), Jan 7th, 2014 @ 6:07am

    When I saw this article...

    I thought the same thing. Why are they not releasing the text message content?
    Perhaps we can contact the NSA and have them tell us what the message said...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2014 @ 6:25am

    Re:

    Ask the child to clarify?

    Its not hard to communicate.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2014 @ 6:36am

    Re:

    The proper response should be text back "What?!", and get clarifications from their child. If they don't get a response from the child, the next step would be to call the school to tell them "My child sent me a worrying text message. I think it's an auto-correct error, but I can't get ahold of them. The text message reads..."

    From which point the school administration can haul the student out of class to learn it's an auto correct error, and their teacher had made them turn their phone off for texting in class. Alternatively they themselves can call the cops if they deem it appropriate, and hopefully only the one school would be put on lockdown.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    scotts13 (profile), Jan 7th, 2014 @ 6:45am

    Re: Re:

    Yes, but what's the fun in that? You've got the metaphorical Big Red Panic Button just sitting there; don't you just long to be the hero that presses it? Stopping and thinking, then taking reasonable action, is far less exciting. And, you run the danger of not showing Zero Tolerance for Terrorists.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2014 @ 6:47am

    A consequence of having retarded gun laws

    makes it tough to gauge the appropriateness of this response.


    Murrica... Guns everywhere... School shootings happening regularly



    It is appropriate to check this type of shit out and "lockdown" three schools as a precaution if needed.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2014 @ 6:51am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Retarded gun laws.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    DannyB (profile), Jan 7th, 2014 @ 7:02am

    Re: A consequence of having retarded gun laws

    Can't the NRA push for the creation of a "school edition" gun that has a slide rule along the barrel?

    Also modify textbooks: You have a locker combination lock lined up in your target site. It is directly in front of you. You move 20 feet to your left, use a sextant to measure the angle to the locker combination lock and obtain 84.29 degrees. From your original position, now 20 feet to your right, what is the distance from your weapon to the locker combination lock?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2014 @ 7:03am

    lol wot national security ?

    No it's NOT. It's about a regular cop with a situation.


    You're an average police officer in a town.
    Get phone call and a credible threat reported.
    Possible immediate threat to school pupils.
    ...

    Now what are you going to do ?

    1) Hurr durr, long-assed investigation
    2) Immediately inform schools and lockdown, then investigate further.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2014 @ 7:05am

    Re: Re: A consequence of having retarded gun laws

    don't give them ideas...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    DannyB (profile), Jan 7th, 2014 @ 7:05am

    A new technique for terrorists

    There is a simple and obvious way for terrorists to completely cripple the entire US without the use of a single weapon, explosive or other means of violence.

    Simply send a lot of threats everywhere, putting all schools, airports, state, federal and local government buildings and military installations on lockdown, and causing all traffic and commerce to screech to a halt.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    icon
    DannyB (profile), Jan 7th, 2014 @ 7:08am

    Re: Re: Re: A consequence of having retarded gun laws

    Johnny promised Bill that if he stole four tires, that Johnny would pay bill 25% of the proceeds from the sale of the stolen tires. If Johnny was able to sell the tires for $200, then how much did Bill earn? By what date should Bill expect a 1099 form from Johnny?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2014 @ 7:50am

    Re: A consequence of having retarded gun laws

    Murrica... Guns everywhere... School shootings happening regularly


    without our guns our dictators would have no fear whatsoever.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2014 @ 7:54am

    So, why is this text being withheld? The school could make the argument that the involvement of a minor raises privacy issues and thus, the text's content must be withheld.

    It doesn't stop the NSA from collecting this child's data

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jan 7th, 2014 @ 8:51am

    Re: lol wot national security ?

    I'm being sarcastic and joking around given we don't have further details and the current abuses being committed in name of the so called national security.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
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    beltorak (profile), Jan 7th, 2014 @ 9:12am

    I'll take a stab at it.

    Intended text: Saw a dirty comb in Billy's locker. Should I worry?

    Maybe billy is suspected of head lice, or cooties, or whatever. Anyway kid types 'vomb' instead of 'comb' and now it's

    Saw a dirty bomb in Billy's locker. Should I worry?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2014 @ 9:25am

    Re: Re: A consequence of having retarded gun laws

    Mmm. Kool-Aid.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Alt0, Jan 7th, 2014 @ 9:47am

    re

    Dear iPhone auto-correct
    Duck You!
    ~The Students of Plainfield High School

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Rekrul, Jan 7th, 2014 @ 10:08am

    Original text: Billy brought some gum to school!

    Autocorrected text: Billy brought some gun to school!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    icon
    Deranged Poster (profile), Jan 7th, 2014 @ 10:12am

    I'm guessing text was
    "I didn't forget my gun today"
    vs
    "I didn't forget my gum today"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2014 @ 11:11am

    Student says "Momb there's a real tgreat for school liunch today!"

    AC says "Bomb there's a real threat for school launch today!"

    mom reads "there's a real bomb threat launch at school today!"

    Mom tells SWAT team "there's a bomb threat at school!"

    SWAT team eagerly searches every student's property at school without a warrant.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 7th, 2014 @ 11:33am

    Da bomb

    "Take a look at what I put in my locker today. It's da bomb!"

    Kids still say things are "da bomb" nowadays, right? :/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2014 @ 12:23pm

    come back to planet earth

    lolwot?

    People with access to military contractors like blackwater, the military, the police including riot police, the nsa, airforce etc...

    Implying they are afraid of a few people because they have guns... delusion-ally priceless.








    Also... how is having all those guns working so far ?
    They are soo scared they work for the people... lolwot?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 7th, 2014 @ 1:22pm

    Re: come back to planet earth

    You're right. Of all of the "everybody should own guns" arguments I've heard, that one is by far the most ludicrous. There is no way that a meaningful number of people can own the type of firepower that would be required to defend against the might of the US military.

    If their revolutionary wet dreams are realized and it is the people engaged in an armed struggle with the government, then tactics of the people would have to be guerrilla warfare. Small arms would be useful, of course, but would also be available through the same methods that they're always available in those situations: theft, looting bodies, etc.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2014 @ 1:51pm

    Re:

    Then they realise that they just locked the kids in the same building where they thought a bomb was... oops let not release the text message that caused the panic.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    icon
    John85851 (profile), Jan 7th, 2014 @ 2:49pm

    Re: Re:

    I completely agree.
    Unfortunately, it seems like too many people are almost being trained to hit the panic button instead of calmly going through the correct channels. Why call the school and get an "everything's fine" message when the parent can call 911 and lock down three schools, presumably because little Johnny isn't answering his phone because his teacher told him to turn it off.

    We also need people to get upset and protest reactions like this. Otherwise, like other posters are saying, people will get used to this kind of response. Little Suzy isn't answering Mom? Use this situation as a precedent and call 911 to lock down a school.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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