Shooting rumors affect school's attendance

LAWRENCEVILLE - Rumors of school violence circulated via text messages left a noticeable impact Monday on attendance counts at Central Gwinnett High School, officials said.

Before noon, about half of Central's roughly 2,730 students had left school - or not shown up at all, said Gwinnett County Public Schools spokeswoman Sloan Roach.

School resource officers and Lawrenceville police conducted an hours-long search but found nothing to substantiate the rumors.

"With technology, a rumor can really take on a life of its own and spread through the community," Roach said.

The rumor apparently predicted a school shooting at Central on Monday.

Anthony Terrell Jr. was a sophomore at Central prior to his arrest last week for allegedly killing his mother and two young sisters. Roach said those accusations may have fueled the weekend rumors.

Twenty six percent of the student body was absent from Central at the school's commencement Monday. By 11 a.m., another 20 percent of students had either been picked up or left school on their own accord, Roach said.

School administrators were aware of the rumored violence last weekend and addressed the issue at a swim team function, Roach said. School is expected to resume as normal today.

Central principal Valerie Clark posted a letter on the school's Web site advising parents and students the school "will continue to take the steps necessary to ensure the safety of our students and staff" though no clear danger was discovered.

As a precautionary measure, however, extra police will patrol Central for several days, Clark wrote.

Roach said parents are encouraged to direct questions and concerns to the high school.