MOANALUA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - On Tuesday morning, parents with students at Moanalua High were frantic after hearing the school was the subject of a threat.
But there was no threat -- just speculation about a threat that was fueled by discussions on social media.
Still, parents say the school should have known about the speculation and let them know they needn't worry.
"They should definitely alert their parents, even if it could be a false rumor," said one parent, who wanted to remain anonymous.
The speculation involved water damage on campus that some students believed was caused by gunfire. The state Department of Education said it wasn't a credible threat so parents weren't notified and the school wasn't evacuated, closed or put on lockdown.
Parent Luci Aguilar said she heard about the gun rumor through another parent and not the school.
"When it comes to guns or anything in a message, that's an emergency. That's something that parents should know," she said.
Some parents saw a post advising them that they could decide to keep their kids at home rather than send them to school while Moanalua sorted out the incident. The DOE said the note was not an official message from Moanalua administrators.
Parent Tony Agao said that caused more confusion because he believed it was from the school.
"Whoever was to report to the school. Whoever was to report to work. If they get killed are they in the clear or are they at fault?" he said.
Some Moanalua students told Hawaii News Now they saw a mention of a rumored threat on Instagram. Last year, advance word of a brawl at Kapolei spread through Twitter and students from other areas showed up to fight..
National school security expert Kenneth Trump said more than a third of violent threats to schools come through social media, email or messaging. He said too often schools react first and assess later.
"School and law enforcement officials have to treat all threats seriously. They have to be investigated thoroughly and in a timely manner, but that does not automatically equate to an evacuation and school closure," he said.
The DOE said a threat was never made and the school found the source of the rumor.
Even so, many Moanalua students didn't show up to school Tuesday and police made their presence felt by positioning patrol cars around the campus.
"I heard that there was cops by the bridge up there by Kaiser," student Marc Dumphy-Ramos said.
"In my preferred period, there was only half of us there," student Elisabeth Carlos said.
The DOE stands by Moanlua's handling of the incident.
"There's a delicate balance of notifying parents and guardians when a threat is deemed credible and when schools are able to discredit rumors from a potential danger," the DOE said, in a statement.