Family 'torn up' over New Prague school hoax

12:46 AM, Mar 21, 2013   |    comments
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NEW PRAGUE, Minn. - The boy who allegedly caused the lockdown of the entire New Prague School District after a prank phone call does not understand how serious the situation is, according to his attorney.

Marsh Halberg, the well-known Twin Cities-based criminal attorney, is representing the 12-year-old boy, who allegedly called 911 saying a shooter had injured at least two people at the New Prague Middle School Wednesday morning.

The call prompted officials to lockdown the entire school district, sending frantic parents to the middle school, but the violence turned out to be a hoax.

"I'm not sure my client knows at this point how serious this is," said Halberg "And that's not to minimize him or being light-hearted about it. He's simply 12-years-old"

Halberg describes the boy as a "fun, good-natured kid" who has never been in trouble with the law.

"It wasn't done as a lark, but I'd rather not get into it, but I think there are some life issues that are coming forward here," he said.

The news of a possible shooting spread quickly in the community with the school district sending a voice message to parents.

"They're feeling very badly about the ripple effects this has had on other families. They want to convey that to other families that they take this very seriously," he said.

Halberg indicates the family is "torn up" over what happened, especially since the incident traveled throughout the country over Twitter and Facebook, even reaching the airwaves of CNN.

"It's just a different place," he said "And it's just instant information."

It is that rapid flow of information that can be difficult for school districts to control says Gary Amoroso, executive director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators.

"I think you realize that you're not going to stop it. You're not going to be able to stop that type of communication," said Amoroso.

He says districts are now focusing more on social media with some directing staff members to devote a lot of more of their time to it.

"The use of social media is now part of the fiber. It's how we communicate with our parents, with our community," he said.

The boy is in custody awaiting a hearing Thursday or Friday. On behalf of the boy's parents, Halberg wanted the New Prague community to know their schools are safe.

"There was no one actually in danger. That doesn't minimize the terror at the time, but to let people know that it's safe to go back," he said.

He would not say what issues the boy is dealing with, but said it he was not targeting anyone.

"This was not something as anger or retaliation against a school person or discipline or something like that," said Halberg.

"They're pretty torn up by this," he added about the boy's family. "This young man has never been in the legal system before. They are a law abiding family."

He and others hope what started as a scary morning for parents can turn into a lesson for others.

"We really hope this is a vehicle," he said, "to sit around and talk with their children about making decisions in life."

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