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California school’s messaging mistake scares parents out of their wits

Smart phone (Photo by Richard Newstead/Getty Images)

This is one of those calls you never want to get to get from a school: The child who you think is safely in school isn’t.

The Press-Enterprise reports that most of the parents of the more than 700 students at Adams Elementary School in Corona, Calif., got an unexpected automated phone call from the school on Oct. 23 that said their child was not in class. The good news is that the kids actually were. Someone had made a mistake with the relatively new automated messaging system that the district uses to communicate with parents.

The newspaper quoted a parent named  Shane Reichardt — whose child-care provider was dropping his second-grade son off at school that day — as saying that the time from when he got the call until he learned his child was really at school as “the longest eight minutes of my life.”

What happened? A spokeswoman for the Corona-Norco Unified School District, which is about 45 miles southeast of Los Angeles, called the mistake a combination of human and technological error. A school employee operating Blackboard Connect was apparently sending a message to one parent but, instead, it went to all parents.

Reichardt was quoted as saying that he finds the mistake very concerning.

“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.”