Stopping the rumor mill

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In the wake of national tragedy, school officials are working to prevent threats before they happen in local schools. Across the country and right here in Texoma, schools are investigating violent threats in their own hallways.

School administrators say after national incidents like the tragedy at Virginia Tech or the Columbine shooting from a few years ago, the incidents sometimes spur incidents at their schools. They hear rumors, and sometimes threats from inside their school buildings.
They say they must take each incident seriously.

"Schools are very conscious of any comments that may supposedly or really be made, any perceptions of any rumors," said Terry James, Durant Schools superintendent.
James says they've heard rumors of violence at Durant High School this week and fully investigated everything they heard.
While it may be a student joking around it's a serious matter every time.
"Students can't make those; they can't make those innocent remarks. They cannot be viewed as harmless. They may be immature, but they can't be viewed as rumors," James said.

Law enforcement officers say each time they hear a threat they're called to investigate. Most of the time it's a hoax and anyone making careless remarks could face serious consequences.

"There are charges that can be filed on them for falsifying reports of bomb threats, things of that nature. It is illegal, and it is a crime to report things falsely," said Lt. Johnny Rutherford, of the Durant police dept.

Durant school administrators say they have 32 security cameras installed throughout the school and keep most of their door locked during the school day as a daily precaution.

While it's difficult to keep the rumors at bay, students could be suspended or expelled for making false threats.
"Be aware of the potential consequences. And we do that in many areas: if you don't study here's what's going to happen. If you get involved with drugs or alcohol here's what's going to happen. If you do anything to threaten the safety and security of anybody you need to understand the potential consequences," James said.

While administrators say there are consequences for making fake threats, they want to stress the importance of letting someone know anytime you have information about a potential threat.

Durant isn't alone this week: rumors of threats have been circulating and several other schools in both Oklahoma and Texas.

School officials say they'd much rather investigate a rumor that turns out to be false, than deal with tragedy later. If you know about a potential threat at a school near you, school administrators say they encourage parents to contact them to learn about the status of an investigation, and the validity of any threat made.

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