CORONA, Calif. – Parents of students at John Adams Elementary School were thrown into a panic recently when school officials inadvertently sent out a broadcast that students were absent from class.
Shane Reichardt received a recorded message from the school recently that informed him his second-grade son, Drew, wasn’t at school that day. Reichardt dropped his son off at his childcare provider, who took him to school, but the message sent him into a panic, PE.com reports.
“At this point my concern increased exponentially,” Reichardt told the news site.
A short time later, he received a second call from the school apologizing for the mistake, one Reichardt described as “the longest eight minutes of my life.”
Parents of 717 students at the school went through the same experience after receiving calls about their “absent” children Oct. 23, but school officials told the news site the debacle was simply an “inadvertent error” by an employee operating the school’s broadcast messaging system, PE.com reports.
“There is an option to send messages to a filtered group,” said Evita Tapia-Gonzalez, spokeswoman for the Corona-Norco Unified School District. “This one was sent to all parents.”
“The software prompts you to reread and review what was sent and to whom. It was human error coupled with technology error,” she said.
Tapia-Gonzalez said “site administration immediately was available to offer their apologies to parents and answer questions” for those who called in or showed up at the school because of the error.
Regardless of the reason for the mix-up, parent Angel Lomeli said she was “scared to death” when she received separate message for each of her four children who attend the school.
It also prompted some to question whether school officials could operate the notification system properly in a real emergency.
“I take safety and open communication seriously,” Reichardt, a manager for the Riverside County Fire Department, told the news site. “The notification system in the school could play a vital role when something goes wrong. If the school can’t use it correctly on a good day, I have concerns about how they will function on a bad day.”
“To tell a parent their child in unaccounted for could quite possibly be the scariest thing a parent could ever imagine,” he said. “I hope they find a way to prevent it from happening (again).”
Tapia-Gonzalez told PE.com the experience resulted in some changes to the way school officials use the system in hopes preventing a similar situation in the future.
“The school has developed a process that provides additional layers of review before messages are sent to parents,” she said, though she did not describe what the “additional layers” entail.