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Louisiana schools fall victim to text-app hoaxes

Posted at 1:50 PM, Sep 22, 2022

So far today, KATC has heard from parents of students at schools in seven parishes about lock-downs following threats.

We spoke with State Police, and troopers tell us that these are hoaxes being called in to schools across the country.

Over the past two weeks or so, schools in ten states have fallen victim to these hoaxes, in which a threat is called in against a high school. Today apparently was Louisiana's turn, troopers say.

A post on the St. Mary Parish Sheriff's Facebook gives a little more detail, calling this the "active shooter hoax."

Morgan City Police were called with a tip that an active shooter was on the second floor of Berwick High - which has no second floor. There happened to be law enforcement officers at the school already, as well.

Some of the states where schools have received similar hoaxes include Arkansas, California, Florida, Kansas, Illinois, Minnesota, Oregon, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia.

"Across the state of Louisiana today, multiple agencies are reporting the same hoax calls," the sheriff's post states. "The calls usually target both the junior high schools and high schools in a particular area."

Even though it is known that there's a hoax out there, law enforcement checked and secured the campuses anyway, the post states.

"We are all committed to the safety of our students and educators," the post said. "Any threat will be taken seriously."

Vermilion Superintendent Tommy Byler said he's been in contact with superintendents across the state, and estimates that schools in 15 to 20 parishes were hit by the hoax today.

Because we're talking about our children, though, all the threats were taken seriously and the school safety plans were implemented. When we spoke to Byler at about 1:45 p.m., his staff was wrapping up it's room-by-room clearance at two parish high schools.

To find a silver lining, having these hoax calls did give parishes a chance to drill and practice their safety plans, Byler said.

In Iberia Parish, two schools were cleared.

"There was a false alarm reported and law enforcement responded to the campuses of Westgate High and Delcambre High. Out of caution, the schools went into a soft lockdown. There were no incidents at any of these schools. All students and staff are safe," a release from Iberia Parish schools states.

Iota Police posted about the hoaxes:

"Please be aware there is a rash of Active Shooter call to local schools nationwide including Louisiana. These calls are hoaxes and are being investigated by law enforcement agencies. We will take the calls seriously until at time we determine they are hoaxes. We will also prosecute to the fullest anyone caught making such calls," a post on the IPD Facebook page states.

Jennings High also got a call:

First came this post: "A call in reference to a safety concern was given to us by local law enforcement. We are currently in a safety check with local PD. All students are safe."

And a short time later the all-clear came:

"It has been confirmed by authorities that the safety concerns reported are false and have been occurring around the state. Students are on normal schedule," a post on the school's Facebook states.

St. Mary Parish Schools said they locked down their schools.

"A statewide threat to school safety was reported by local law enforcement today late in the school day. For the safety of our students, the district immediately locked down all schools until law enforcement officials cleared each school. At this time, all schools will proceed with regular dismissal procedures," a post on the district Facebook page states.

In Morgan City, every school was placed on lockdown as a precaution, police said.

"Today, at approximately 1:00 p.m., the Morgan City Police Department received a call from a subject stating that there was an active shooter on the second floor of the school. The subject had mentioned Berwick Junior High School and then made reference to Berwick High School," a release states.

"Authorities with the Berwick Police Department were alerted to the situation when these schools were placed on lock down and cleared safe. All schools, both public and private, were also put on lock down in Morgan City when officers went to each school and cleared them safe. All schools have been released from lock down status and are back to normal activity," the release continues.

Police are investigating the origin of the calls, and MCPD promised to update everyone as information developed.

That lockdown included the Morgan City campus of SLCC, the college posted:

"ATTENTION: Police are investigating an incident near SLCC’s Morgan City Campus. The campus is on full lockdown, and all exterior and interior doors should be locked immediately. Students, employees and visitors on campus should remain in place until given the all clear from campus security officials or local law enforcement. All students and visitors not yet on SLCC’s Morgan City Campus should avoid the area until given the all clear. An armed officer is on campus, now," the post states. A short while later, the all clear was posted.

Rayne Police said there was a call there:

"On September 22, 2022, at 9:58 AM, the Rayne Police Department received a call reporting an “active shooter” at Rayne High School. Officers responded and the school went into a lockdown state where it was searched room-by-room. Officers verified there was no active threat and cleared the scene at 10:42 AM. The Rayne Police Department is investigating this incident as a felony terrorizing offense. If convicted, the offender could face up to 15 years jail time," a post on the RPD Facebook page states.

Erath Police said none of their schools were affected:

"Public Information: There have been automated phone calls sent to several schools about a school shooting. WE DID NOT RECEIVED A CALL FOR ERATH SCHOOLS but as a precaution I did post officers at all our schools within the Erath city limits," a post on the EPD Facebook page states.

Calcasieu Parish got a threat - but for a school in another state.