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Active shooter hoax at Valdosta High School triggering anxiety among students and family

Posted at 6:30 PM, Nov 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-30 18:49:30-05

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WTXL) — From Savannah to Valdosta, school systems across Georgia were put on lockdown Wednesday following reports of an active shooter on campus, only for officers to find out it was all just an elaborate prank, targeting multiple school districts, and sending panic across those campuses.

"It was very scary. I'm happy that I'm able to get home from this disaster day. You wouldn't think in a million years that in Valdosta we would have this situation going on I feel like people need to be aware of what's going on and make sure your kids and everybody is okay in these times because it can be very scary," said Johnna, a senior at Valdosta High School (VHS) and her brother, Mack.

Johnna's brother Mack came to pick her up on Wednesday after Valdosta City Schools superintendent cancelled classes for the rest of the day, so students could go home and recover.

What started as a normal day at Valdosta High School turned upside down thanks to what many are saying is a social media challenge.

"I'm just glad that she's safe. You've got families to think about you hear that and think oh no, we all tried to contact each other trying to figure out what's going on and it was crazy," added Mack.

According to Valdosta Police Department, someone made a phony call saying an active shooter was in Valdosta High School just before 10 a.m.

At least 5 other schools across Georgia were also a target of the same hoax. A hoax that is causing so much fear amongst students, many having to be treated for anxiety and panic attacks by first responders.

"You put a lot of lives in danger today our first responders put their lives at risk we had a lot of students who are upset and a lot of family members who are upset."

Leslie Manahan, the Chief of the Valdosta Police Department, says almost 100 police officers from the state, Lowndes County, and Valdosta State University worked together to make sure students and faculty were safe, doing several sweeps of the school to make sure there was no active shooter or injuries.

ABC 27 asked what are the consequences for someone making a hoax call like this?

"If we catch you on a state level through social media or something like that, we can prosecute you for terroristic threats which is a felony."

That could cost those responsible a heavy fine and prison time.

Sabrina Smith, the Director of Safety and Security at Valdosta City School District, says the school, which has over 2,000 students, immediately went into lockdown when they got the call. Despite it being a fake threat, the impacts this has on their mental health can be major.

"There were no substantiated acts of violence, but we still have to deal with students and staff who have this now etched into their memory of a traumatic experience that could've happened on our campus," said Smith.

Smith says they don't know yet if they'll have school on Thursday, but they plan to have crisis counselors available once school is back in session.