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Student charged in connection with text threat

DULUTH - A Peachtree Ridge High School student faces criminal charges in connection with a rumor of a school shooting that circulated Tuesday and Wednesday throughout the campus via text messages, an official said.

The 16-year-old has been charged with disruption of a public school, said Sloan Roach, a spokeswoman for Gwinnett County Public Schools. She said the school will also take disciplinary action against the student, who was not identified.

The "text threats" also made their way Wednesday to Duluth High School, but Roach said nothing was found at either school to sustain the rumor.

"We take threats very seriously," Roach said. "We work to evaluate the validity of the threats ... and to identify who might be responsible for starting the threats and perpetuating them."

Roach said school district officials believe Wednesday's arrest resolved the issue, but if the threats persist, students should tell school officials instead of forwarding the message to others. Spreading the message makes it difficult for authorities to find its origin, she said.

"We would ask if a child gets a text message, rather than forward it on to 10 or 15 people, to let an adult at the school know," Roach said.

Roach said she did not know why the threat was started.

Peachtree Ridge experienced a higher rate of absenteeism on Tuesday and Wednesday, but Roach said she did not know how many students were checked out of school early.

Duluth High School principal Pat Blenke said about 300 students checked out of school early Wednesday, after the text messages began circulating at 10 a.m. Typically, 25 to 30 students are checked out of school early, he said.

Blenke said some students told him they received text messages from friends at Peachtree Ridge. Students began forwarding the message throughout the school and to their parents, he said.

"It was a normal school day with the exception of the high number of checkouts," he said.

Earlier this month, about half of Central Gwinnett High School's students were either absent or left school early after rumors of school violence were spread through text messages.