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William And Mary Law School Went On High Alert Over Class Exercise

04/02/2013 02:44 pm ET | Updated Apr 02, 2013
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Administrators at William and Mary Law School put the institution on high alert Monday after a student informed them of a rumor about what might have been -- but wasn't -- a mass shooter's warning, AbovetheLaw.com reports.

The website published an email sent to students from Associate Dean Liz Jackson, who described a sheet of paper found in the law school’s library that allegedly read, "Plan A: Kill 400 People."

Police investigated the matter, and the campus remained open. Campus closings or evacuations are typically ordered only when administrators have identified an immediate threat like an active shooter or a reported explosive device.

Jackson said in her initial April 1 email that administrators took the threat seriously despite its odd timing. In a second email sent shortly afterward, she wrote that the perceived threat had turned out to be language from a mediation assignment that was taken out of context and somewhat misquoted. Jackson explained further in an email to AbovetheLaw.com that “Plan A: Kill 400 People" was actually one option in a multiple-choice exercise on how people make decisions. (Click over to AbovetheLaw.com for a fuller description of the assignment.)

In each email, Jackson noted that administrators and campus security simply cannot dismiss any threat. Some 16 mass shootings happened in 2012, and one-fourth of those took place at a school or university (not counting the Aurora shooting, allegedly carried out by James Eagan Holmes, who just a month earlier had been a graduate student at the University of Colorado).

Schools across the country have taken a similarly strict approach to safety, which sometimes results in bizarre discipline. Unlike at William and Mary, educators within the primary and secondary education systems are fielding complaints from parents who argue that these zero-tolerance policies are projecting paranoid adult fears onto unwitting children, according to the Associated Press.

Last week, a Massachusetts middle school student was suspended for possessing a butter knife in her bagged lunch. She packed it so she could slice a pear. In another widely publicized incident, a second-grader was suspended after he bit a Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun and said, “Bang, bang,” leading Washington Post columnist Alexandra Putri to ask, "Seriously, folks?"

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