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School shooting rumor dispelled

Backpacks searched as precaution

By James Card

District Administrator Ron Saari arrived at Waupaca High School wearing blue jeans and a sweatshirt on Friday, Nov. 10.
That’s what he threw on after he received a call at 5:30 a.m. concerning a rumor about a school shooting.

As he rushed to the school, police were already knocking on doors in the early morning hours and following leads.

After police gathered more information, it was decided the rumor was not credible.

Saari conferred with Police Chief Brian Hoelzel and they decided the school day would go on as normal, but they would conduct backpack searches as a precaution and would increase police presence.

Saari said the rumor started earlier in the week when a student commented on the vestibule of the new single-point entry at the high school. The student said something to the effect that the new design was safe and would prevent a school shooting.

Another student overheard and misunderstood the “school shooting” and then passed it along to another student and another and another.

“It was like the telephone game,” said Saari as he held out his hand and made small consecutive karate chops on a table mimicking information getting passed down the line.

The telephone game is a children’s game where messages are whispered from one person to the next. Typically when the first message and last message received are compared, the final message is garbled mumbo jumbo and completely unlike the original message.

No students were disciplined for the rumor that went viral. Police only conducted backpack searches at the main entrance. Some worried parents picked up their children and a few students craftily used morning drama as a way to skip school.

Saari pointed out his own children were at the school, along with children of law enforcement officers. The school was safe from the start and was never locked down.

Later in the morning, High School Principal Mike Werbowsky emailed parents an explanation of the morning events and stated school was back to normal.

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