Rumors of an incident at Fort Dodge High School Wednesday proved to be exactly that: rumors.
According to Dave Keane, FDSH principal, a posting on Twitter caused rumors of an imminent, Newtown-like attack to spread on social network sites Tuesday.
"It began yesterday with a student bringing us a tweet they had seen on Twitter," he said Wednesday. "So we began to investigate that and followed up on some things."
The senior high works with the Fort Dodge Police Department in such matters, Keane said. Nothing conclusive was found. The rumor was already spreading, though.
"There weren't any individuals that we could track down who heard someone say something," he said. "It was always, they always heard someone say something. We addressed that with a couple of people involved with the tweeting."
By the time Keane arrived at school Wednesday, he was receiving phone calls.
"As the day went on other people got involved in tweeting and Facebook and twisted and turned everything in terms of information," he said.
At 1 p.m., Keane addressed the student body.
"I said, listen, this is getting out of hand," he said. "Unfortunately, there were some allegations made by some of our students saying a student had said this and they had not. I spoke with the student. I told the student body you can't spread rumors and accuse someone of saying something and be posting that in terms of factual information on social networking and things. Officially, they haven't had a chance to represent themselves."
The situation is not unheard of, but the speed the rumor spread is new, Keane said.
"We've dealt with this before since I've been here, never quite to this extent, where so many people picked up on it on social networking," he said. "I do appreciate those individuals who actually contacted me and got accurate information and helped in squelching the rumors."
Schools nationwide are dealing with this same situation, Keane said, with tweets of rumors of possible shootings and attacks.
Doug Van Zyl, FDCSD superintendent, said all such rumors are addressed immediately.
"There wasn't anything that necessarily happened. Our high school, along with several throughout the country, have been dealing with rumors in the light of what took place in Connecticut," he said. "We definitely take any rumor or information that's shared with of us seriously."
School staff worked with students to resolve the issue, Van Zyl said.
"Even though it's a rumor, we definitely investigate it and do everything we can to keep our students and staff safe," he said.
Keane, working with Van Zyl, has been addressing the issue with concerned parents.
"Our thing is, if we knew there was any substance to it at all, obviously we wouldn't have had school," Keane said. "Dr. Van Zyl and I have the same philosophy. We care about the people we have in our buildings, students and staff, and we're going to do everything to make sure we have a safe environment for everyone."
He added, "We'll have our eyes open and keep diligent over the next few days. I feel comfortable about the fact that it's a rumor that got out of hand the last couple of days."