Just ONE More Weird Lockdown Story & Then I’ll Stop!

Readers — I don’t want this blog to become just a compendium of nutty zero tolerance stories, but it’s Saturday night and I couldn’t resist just one more before we return to more pressing matters. The Associated Press reports that a Pennsylvania doctor’s receptionist mis-heard a student’s singing voicemail as, “Shooting some people outside of the school,” instead of, “Shooting shoot some b-ball outside of the school” — the Fresh Prince rap — and immediately alerted the authorities. The student’s school went into lockdown.  The student himself was also arrested.

Ho-hum. Just another day in the Paranoid States of America. – L

Will Smith, who never sang about shooting people at school. And, my guess is, never will.

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52 Responses to Just ONE More Weird Lockdown Story & Then I’ll Stop!

  1. Violet March 2, 2013 at 8:21 pm #

    The thing is, it is happening every single day. This is insane.

  2. mollie March 2, 2013 at 8:24 pm #

    Glad I graduated in ’85. I’m just… speechless (rare for me).

  3. Angelica March 2, 2013 at 8:28 pm #

    This is all kinds of fabulous. They actually *arrested* the kid, before releasing him a few hours later. And now his family has contacted a lawyer. Of course they did. Ah, the circle of life….

  4. Violet March 2, 2013 at 9:07 pm #

    I would sue if it were my kid! They had no cause to detain that child.

  5. Donald March 2, 2013 at 9:10 pm #

    After Sandy Hook, wasn’t there a call to screen out the people with mental problems? Shouldn’t that include secretaries?

    I think this is a great example of how you can’t fight paranoia by using paranoia. If course that won’t keep people from trying. After all, it worked well in the Salem witch hunts

  6. Cara March 2, 2013 at 9:18 pm #

    Sometimes you post these things and I have to double check to make sure I’m not reading The Onion.

  7. Donald March 2, 2013 at 9:20 pm #

    @ Angelica

    I love it!

    ……And now his family has contacted a lawyer. Of course they did. Ah, the circle of life….

    Let’s make paranoid people paranoid of incorrectly detaining people. Perhaps we can make them so scared that they can’t even think straight!
    Oh wait. They already are and they are teaching children how to be pillars of society.

  8. Powers March 2, 2013 at 9:53 pm #

    I thought it was a doctor’s receptionist, not a school receptionist.

  9. Emily March 2, 2013 at 9:56 pm #

    That is nuts, but that lyric is easily misheard–I heard it as “meatball” a few times, until I heard the song along with the opening sequence, and saw Will Smith and his friends playing B-BALL (meaning basketball) outside of the school, and figured that that made more sense. However, I don’t think ANY recorded song lyric should be a reason to send an entire school into lockdown. I mean, where would it end? Suppose that, instead of a ring tone with lyrics that got misheard, there was a history class within hearing distance of the office, and that class was watching a movie about war, and the secretary heard gunshots. Could the secretary then send the school into a lockdown, even knowing that it was just a movie?

  10. CrazyCatLady March 2, 2013 at 10:40 pm #

    Emily, that brings to mind the Home Alone movies!

  11. Kim March 3, 2013 at 12:17 am #

    Right at this moment, I am so proud to call PA my home…

    Not.

  12. Bacopa March 3, 2013 at 12:25 am #

    It’s all just part of the schools to prisons pipeline. Five years ago I used to joke that some schools around here should be called “The Texas Department of Corrections Preparatory Academy”, but after reading this site I realize they were pretty low key. A long haired freaky guy like me got yo help build robots and teach music in after school programs with no background check and no sign in sheet. I just walked in the side door. Shocking!

    I understand the school to prison pipeline is getting stronger here. Police involvement is becoming a first resort, rather than a last resort when a situation is so out of control that large scale harm to multiple students is at stake.

    I went to a very tough high school back in the early 80’s. Racial tensions, even though they had merged the Carverdale Negro School with my HS more than 20 years before. Tons of displaced Rust Belt families who had moved southward. Vietnamese refugees who fought among themselves over whether to reconcile with the Communist regime or not. Seriously, putting a yellow star or a red star on your notebook could incite violence. And over three thousand of us crammed into a facility built for 1,800. Yet somehow we survived, and I think the police came by about once a year, all for firearms cases.

    We are not the land of the free when over 1% of us are in prison and we have a schools to prisons program.

  13. hineata March 3, 2013 at 4:26 am #

    Am beginning to wish I taught in the States. Sounds like a lot of fun, thinking up new reasons to get rid of kids who annoy you, on a daily basis.

    Only problem is, I’d probably get arrested myself in the first few days, for carrying knives across the playground (difficult to cut up apples/cakes/animal parts without them), or ignoring the kids climbing trees in the playground.

    Our schools are so boring in comparison…..The only time we have any excitement is when kids fall from trees or the playground, breaking various bits, or when one tries to do a runner (generally a sign of excellent mental health!). Or when the occasional kid goes ape in the classroom, and you can’t suspend them for something as trivial as that, sigh.

    Gosh, no one even brings guns (other than the odd air rifle) to school, mostly because they don’t have any.

    You all are having all the fun…..

  14. Sara March 3, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    @ Cara…hilarious! and me too!

    Frankly, I think that most of the incidents like this one and the “pastry that looks like a gun” are set in motion by drama junkies that feed off the paranoia. They want to be recognized as the “hero” that stopped the “inevitable” before it happened…whether something is going to happen or not.

  15. ebohlman March 3, 2013 at 9:48 am #

    I’m sure the local screen-printing shop would give him a hefty price break on “Shoot B-Ball, not people” T-shirts; he could probably make some good money selling them to all his classmates (come to think of it, Smith could give him a start-up grant and hook him up with national promoters, and since shooting B-Ball outside of school burns up plenty of calories, he could probably get Michelle Obama’s endorsement). I see a real “kid starts his own business” opportunity here (and since 75% of all employers won’t hire anyone with an arrest record, starting his own business is his best career option).

  16. Emily March 3, 2013 at 10:44 am #

    @Ebohlman–That’s actually a really good idea, but wouldn’t the police expunge the boy’s record once they figure out that he didn’t do anything wrong, and the secretary just misheard the lyrics on his ring tone?

  17. Puzzled March 3, 2013 at 11:39 am #

    Police don’t expunge records. In most states, you can apply to a court for expungement 5 years after an arrest that doesn’t lead to conviction.

  18. lollipoplover March 3, 2013 at 11:51 am #

    I always mess up song lyrics. I thought the Bee Gees were singing about a “Bald headed Woman” and Elton John wanted to hold me closer Tony Danza. But shooting b-ball or a shooting star doesn’t make for an actual threat. This secretary needs to have her ears checked and apologize for the mayhem she created.

    We need to stop thinking every school lockdown is better safe than sorry and force these overreacting administrators to apologize for the problems they cause, including an arrest record for this student. Unbelievable.

  19. Jenny Islander March 3, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

    Don’t most judicial districts have laws about making a false call to the police?

  20. Donna March 3, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

    “Don’t most judicial districts have laws about making a false call to the police?”

    False report of a crime means reporting a crime when you KNOW it to be false. Ie reporting your wedding ring as stolen when you actually pawned it for drug money. Reporting something that you believe to be true but is later proved to be false is not a crime.

  21. pentamom March 3, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    It’s not necessarily the secretary’s fault that she misheard the lyric and she doesn’t necessarily need to “have her ears checked.” Maybe the recording was unclear. Or maybe she does have bad hearing — that’s not a moral failing, either. Nor is not being familiar with the Fresh Prince rap, although it’s somewhat amusing that she’s not.

    It’s the reaction to what she thought she heard, not the fact that she misunderstood a voice mail message, that is worthy of criticism.

  22. LRH March 3, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

    A couple of things. First, can’t someone put just any bloody thing on their OWN VOICE MAIL that they please? I mean, it’s their phone.

    Besides that, though, one thought I’ve pondered a few times and this is the perfect occasion to bring it up–can you imagine if someone had “School’s Out” from Alice Cooper as a voice mail background song, especially the part where he says “school’s been blown to pieces?”

    For that matter, if someone wrote a song with those lyrics nowadays, can you imagine the outcry, all the “in the wake of Sandy Hook that was a poor choice of lyrics” nonsense you KNOW they’d be pontificating.

    What a bunch of sissies we’re turning into. Frankly, it makes me want to put “School’s Out” on my phone just to spit smack in the face of all of this nonsense.

    LRH

    LRH

  23. Steve March 3, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    This is a GREAT illustration of why helicopter parents act so irrationally.

    They are so hyper-sensitized to certain events and words that their minds use these topics as danger triggers. Helicopter parents DON’T THINK. They just REACT like PAVLOV’S DOGS salivating at the sound of a bell.

  24. JJ March 3, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    This does seem like an Onion headline.

    Was the student singing it himself or was it the recorded song? It’s ridiculous either way but if it was the recorded song I think that makes it all the more ridiculous.

    The part if that song that still never fails to make me laugh is “I said to the cabbie, yo homes smell ya’ later!” I wonder if Will Smith knows this went down. I think he’d get a big kick out of it.

  25. Donna March 3, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

    Unless the kid is outside the school with a gun taunting people while singing it, I fail to see where this would be a crime even if the lyrics said “shooting some people outside the school.”

  26. Peter March 3, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

    That is nuts, but that lyric is easily misheard–I heard it as “meatball” a few times […]

    Let’s hope she never gets exposed to Jimi Hendrix.

    “‘scuse me, while I kiss this guy.”

    😀

  27. lollipoplover March 3, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

    @pentamom-
    But if I hear someone yell “I’m tired” in a movie theater and misheard it as “Fire!” and cause a chain reaction of an evacuation, shouldn’t there be some accountability?

  28. pentamom March 3, 2013 at 8:41 pm #

    I don’t see how people could be held criminally responsible for an innocent mistake that was not a result of negligence or failure to obey existing laws. Having bad hearing is neither of those. Much as we wish this woman would suffer some consequence for beginning this absurd chain reaction, I don’t think we want laws that punish people merely for being dumb.

    An evacuation isn’t real harm anyway, but the example of “Fire” in a crowded theater is usually used to invoke the idea of a dangerous stampede, so I take your point.

    Peter — or Creedence Clearwater Revival — “There’s a bathroom on the right.”

  29. Emily March 3, 2013 at 9:36 pm #

    @Puzzled–Wow, what an eye-opener. I’m Canadian, and I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure that around here, you have to actually break the law in order to get a police record.

  30. Emily March 3, 2013 at 9:39 pm #

    P.S., While we’re on the subject of mishearing things, I’ll never forget the time I was in a Subway restaurant, and there was a toddler-or-preschool-aged girl in there with her mother. It was right after one of the Shrek movies had come out, and the little girl was talking animatedly about Shrek, except she had trouble pronouncing the word “Shrek,” so it sounded exactly like the F-word. I must have looked confused, because her mother explained to me that she was saying “Shrek” and not that other word.

  31. Donna March 4, 2013 at 2:42 am #

    “Much as we wish this woman would suffer some consequence for beginning this absurd chain reaction, I don’t think we want laws that punish people merely for being dumb.”

    I don’t want her to suffer consequences for mishearing the lyrics. There are famous songs that almost everyone mishears. Thanks to my cousin’s musical taste, I spent much of my youth wondering why Hall and Oats thought everybody wanted a hungry horse (hungry HEART) and how Kenny Roger’s Lucille had 400 children (4 HUNGRY children).

    I want her, and the cops, to suffer consequences for thinking that “shooting some students outside of the school” to a very middle school boppy beat as a ring tone is caused for a school lockdown, police notification and arrest. Were they picturing some scene where some kid was outside picking off students while singing some inane, chipper, middle school rap? While that may make a great scene for a movie (a la the guy singing “Singing in the Rain” while raping a woman in “A Clockwork Orange”), it is not likely to happen in life.

  32. pentamom March 4, 2013 at 8:03 am #

    Donna, I actually agree. I just meant that I sympathize with the emotion of frustration that wants some consequences for this, not necessarily for the blame being laid directly on this woman and certainly not for her having misheard something.

    BTW, I’m not sure she’s to blame for causing the lockdown in any case. More than likely she’s been solemnly instructed to report any cause for concern, and beyond that, she has no authority to set such a chain in motion (and also no authority to decide what’s “important enough to report” or not.) If she heard something that caused her concern (fairly or not) and reported it, it’s her superiors who thought that “hearing something in a rap that worried a secretary” is reason to set such a chain of events in motion.

  33. lollipoplover March 4, 2013 at 8:28 am #

    Why isn’t the name of the medicl receptionist included in the story? She should at least share some of the public shaming as this man who was wrongfully arrested.

  34. Andy March 4, 2013 at 8:57 am #

    If the boy’s mother gets scared, perhaps she should move him to his uncle and aunt in Belle Aire.

  35. Tony Shreck March 4, 2013 at 9:33 am #

    @Emily ~ We had a similar experience to the Subway thing with our two-year-old daughter in a grocery store once. She was loudly chanting “Strap on! Strap on!”

    She was referring to the seat belt in the cart.

  36. Beth March 4, 2013 at 10:22 am #

    @Andy, I need a new keyboard now from spitting my coffee all over it when I read your post!

  37. Donna March 4, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

    @pentamom – I absolutely think the secretary is to blame for starting this. Everyone above her on the chain is also to blame but SHE chose to think that a rap ring tone is cause for alarm. That is 100% ridiculous regardless of what the words are. It could be “Cop Killer” for all I care; it is still just a song.

  38. pentamom March 4, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

    It depends what kind of ridiculous policy she’s been ordered to abide by, as to what constitutes a “threat.” If this was based entirely on her own judgment that this really was a real threat, then mishearing or no, I agree with you.

  39. EricS March 4, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    Why didn’t the receptionist confirm what she heard before reporting it? Normally intelligent people who think before they act, will say “what the?!” and try to listen to what they think they heard. 9/10 times, they heard it wrong. But when people like this ignorant receptionist (as misplaced as her heart was), jump the gun and freak out before thinking, it undermines everything. Including the very rules that are put in place to prevent REAL threats. THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK. That’s what we all learned as children. Sad state when as adults, some people get more dumb and fearful. That most 7 year olds, make them look like scared little children.

  40. EricS March 4, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

    @pentamom: I have a feeling she wasn’t acting on any “policy”. But rather her own misguided sense of right and wrong. Not to mention fear, and holier than thou attitude. Your classic case of not thinking before speaking.

  41. Donna March 4, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

    I doubt that there is a school district policy at any school that specifies “All mentions of shooting, even in rap lyrics being used as cell phone ring tones, should be considered a imminent threat and reported immediately to the police.”

    “it’s her superiors who thought that “hearing something in a rap that worried a secretary” is reason to set such a chain of events in motion.”

    That isn’t true at all. The article specifically states that the RECEPTIONIST called 911 after hearing the rap. She 100% set the chain of events in motion. She didn’t report it to the principal who made a decision. She took it upon herself to call 911 about a RING TONE.

  42. ebohlman March 4, 2013 at 10:52 pm #

    And note, once again, that this was a receptionist at an optometrist’s office, not a school district employee. She is very likely not subject to mandated-reporting laws; she is certainly not bound by school-district policy. Her “superiors” are the optometrists who run the practice.

  43. ebohlman March 5, 2013 at 11:22 am #

    After reading too many Yahoo comments written by, well, yahoos, I feel compelled to add an addendum to my last comment: her being a receptionist at a medical office implies, among other things, that she is neither a member of nor represented by a teacher’s union.

  44. pentamom March 5, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

    Oops, my mistake about who called 911, sorry. I was probably doing that thing where you change what you think you read to make it sound at least a little bit more reasonable because you want to make reality conform to what you think makes sense. 😉

    Yup, calling 911 because of what you thought you heard on a voice mail greeting (not a ringtone, you don’t hear people’s ringtones when you call their phones) — stupid, stupid, stupid.

  45. Donna March 5, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

    You are correct, it would not be a ring tone. I interpreted this rather poorly written article to be the that school secretary heard his ring tone when someone called him to confirm an appointment and set this ball in motion.

    This is even more ridiculous. A doctor’s secretary heard a voicemail greeting and called the police. Some police officer gave this enough validity to notify the school and arrest a kid SITTING IN CLASS (I assume without a gun). The school gave this enough validity to put the school on lockdown to prevent a kid INSIDE the school from shooting people “outside of the school” with a gun he doesn’t have.

    So at least 3 supposedly not mentally challenged people thought a voicemail greeting of kid sitting in a classroom unarmed constitutes an immediate threat. And NONE thought to actually call the number themselves to see what this was all about?

  46. pentamom March 5, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

    “And NONE thought to actually call the number themselves to see what this was all about?”

    Right. That’s my chief beef. I agree with you now that the doctor’s secretary was absolutely out of line for calling 911 on this. But everyone else along the way (police, school officials, anyone else who reacted thereafter) was miserably failing their responsibility by not finding out what the “threat” was before reacting as though school was literally under siege. Is a principal supposed to just completely throw safety and order to the wind every time someone TELLS HIM there is a threat, or does he have a duty to keep things under control unless there IS an actual threat? Are the police supposed to show up ready to arrest someone every time they hear a second-hand report about something someone thought they heard? A lot of times people wish they WOULD do that when there’s something bad actually going down, but that doesn’t mean they were right in this situation.

  47. ebohlman March 6, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    What’s become plain to me is that the only reason the response to this incident dragged on so long and involved such high-level people (the DA getting personally involved?) was that the authorities were hoping to find something, anything, they could pin on the kid (for example, I’m pretty sure the reason the search of his locker took so long was that they were looking for trace marijuana residue in the seams of his jacket pockets and such places). Probably easily explained by cognitive dissonance theory, particularly the sunk-cost fallacy; they had invested so much time and manpower into the case that they were looking for a way to justify it.

    Also, some jurisdictions have wildly popular but extremely stupid laws that require criminals, rather than the taxpayers, to bear the cost of their arrests (the result is to encourage extravagant show-of-force arrests and to make people who committed very minor offenses serve long sentences in what’s effectively debtor’s prison).

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