Text Messages Lead to Lockdown

April 4, 2008 10:07:51 AM PDT
Fresno's Hoover high school was put on lock-down during the lunch hour Thursday after students received text message threats. The message warned a person was going to bring a gun on campus at exactly 12:20 p.m. As a precaution, school administrators immediately locked down the campus for about an hour. The Hoover principal said they don't know if it was a hoax or not, but they have not been able to validate the message.Thursday's lockdown was just the latest incident involving text-messaged threats. Fresno State professor Tamyra Pierce studies text messaging and students and why they text what they do. Pierce said, "When it comes to bullying and threatening comments, many of the young people report to me that they feel less inhibited using technology such as a cell phone or a social networking site to send the comments to a person."

Text-messaged threats were behind two lockdowns at valley schools this week. Sanger High was put under lockdown on Monday. Fresno Police Department Jeff Cardinale said all threats need to be treated seriously. Cardinale said, "The one time we don't take these seriously is the one time we can have problems."

Another text message that spread throughout the Central Valley last week warned gang members would be causing crashes on the roads then shooting. Pierce compared that text to spam in e-mail inboxes. Pierce said, "How many times have you gotten forwarded emails and you see all of the people that have seen that and it's literally hundreds and hundreds of people? And now we're seeing it on cell phones."

Pierce said the situation in schools is much more sensitive because determining what's a valid threat and what's a hoax can be difficult. She believes more regulations on cell phone use at school may be part of the solution. "We have to limit their use in school because it is disrupting what they're there for and that's to learn," Pierce said.

The state requires that students be allowed to carry cell phones on all campuses but schools can regulate their use. Fresno Unified only allows students to use their phones before school, after school and during lunch.


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