750 Students Absent From Sparkman High; Supt. Says No Threat Existed

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) - Many parents kept their children home from Sparkman High School on Wednesday.  A good portion, apparently due to word of an alleged threat at the school.

Dr. David Copeland, Superintendent of Madison County Schools, said approximately 750 students are absent from Sparkman today.  He was at Sparkman on Wednesday morning to address the situation.  He stressed that no students or staff were in danger.

Dr. David Copeland addresses questions at Sparkman High School on Wednesday. (Photo: Dion Hose, WHNT News 19)

Dr. David Copeland addresses questions at Sparkman High School on Wednesday. (Photo: Dion Hose, WHNT News 19)

Dr. Copeland said the alleged threat was traced back to an original Tweet from a student who was complaining about a fight with his girlfriend.  Dr. Copeland said the message didn't say anything about a planned attack or shooting -- nothing specific.  Dr. Copeland said the message was taken out of context and embellished on social media.

Some asked why the Superintendent didn't send out a mass communication to parents about this.  The Madison County Sheriff's Office recommended Copeland not do this, because no real threat existed.  

The student who put out the original Tweet will not be punished, Dr. Copeland said, because he didn't do anything wrong.

Some parents who contacted WHNT News 19 say they decided to keep their students home based on a decision they made after talking with school staff on Tuesday.  One parent we spoke with didn't want to be named, but said she spoke with school staff, who said detectives were at the school investigating the situation.  The parent said school staff indicated the threat was real, so the parent kept her daughter home based on that information.

Dr. Copeland said the district will review policies and procedures dealing with social media to try to figure out how to get ahead of misinformation when it's going viral online.

Sparkman High School has a total enrollment of about 1,800 students.