Police kept watch over Burnsville High School on Friday after a rumor circulated online and by cell-phone messaging that a student was going to bring a gun to school.
The rumored threat proved to be false, school district officials said Friday afternoon in a prepared statement. But by then, about half of the student body had stayed home from classes after receiving the warnings from other students the night before. Only 20 percent of students stayed in school the whole day. Many ended up shopping at Burnsville Center and hanging out at coffee shops.
"People decided they weren't safe and wanted to leave for the day," Burnsville police Sgt. Dan Carlson said. "(Now) if you hear rumors like this, you have to act upon them in a different way."
It was the second reported threat at a school this week. An Internet threat prompted school officials at Warroad High School to cancel classes Monday. School officials there suspended six Warroad students in connection with the incident, Superintendent Dave Kragness said.
Many Burnsville High parents chose to keep their teenagers home from school after students received warnings while online at the popular site MySpace.com, students said. Warnings also went out by cell-phone text messages during a high school hockey game.
By Friday afternoon, police thought the threat might have been a result of a misunderstanding, Carlson said.
An officer who specializes in cyber crimes is trying to locate the origin of the rumors and who started them. The FBI might help with the investigation.
No one was arrested or suspended from school.
Administrators called police at 8:30 p.m. Thursday to report the gun threat after staff found out about it during the hockey game. Police interviewed students Thursday and Friday. They also increased the number of patrol officers at the school from two to 12.
Nicole Hidu, 18, a senior at Burnsville High, was on MySpace.com early Friday talking about the threat with other students. Hidu stayed home because she wasn't feeling well, but she said her friends didn't go to school because they were afraid. Hidu started using MySpace.com in September. She didn't receive a posted threat.
Paul Mansour made his eleventh-grade daughter, Jessica, stay home from school after she got the warning on MySpace.com. Like many other parents, he called the police to report the threat. Jessica, 16, went to the mall Friday, where she saw many others from the school.
"My parents right away said 'You're not going (to school),' " Jessica said.
Mary Stevens also kept her two high school students home because they weren't comfortable attending. Stevens is thankful for MySpace.com.
"Had it not been on MySpace, I don't know if the kids would have heard about it," she said. "There was no other way for parents to hear about it."
Amy Kwok, 17, was one of the few who showed up for school. She said the rumor didn't scare her. She doesn't believe a shooting could actually happen at Burnsville High School.
"I don't think it's reasonable that anyone would do something like that," Amy said. Minnesota was the site of the nation's second-deadliest school shooting March 21, when 10 people were killed at Red Lake High School.