By David Robichaud

BELLINGHAM (CBS) – Parents who have students at Bellingham Memorial Middle School were caught off guard Thursday morning when they all received automated phone calls telling them their children were absent.

A member of the school staff basically hit a wrong button and every parent got the message.  So many parents called the school to find out what was going on that many of them couldn’t get through because the phone system was clogged.

bellingham Bellingham School Mistakenly Calls Every Parent To Say Child Is Absent

Bellingham Memorial Middle School. (Photo: David Robichaud/WBZ-TV)

One mother told WBZ-TV she was worried her child might have been in an accident on the way to school.

“Just woke up, kind of freaked out,” said parent Christina Marshalsea, who had seen her 12-year-old get on the bus.

“Oh my God, I thought maybe she played hookey, or I thought maybe she was kidnapped, so I naturally panicked,” Marshalsea said.

She said she tried calling the school, but the line was busy. Then “I flew to the school,” she said.

But not all parents were alarmed.

bellingham police at middle school Bellingham School Mistakenly Calls Every Parent To Say Child Is Absent

A police cruiser outside Bellingham Memorial Middle School. (WBZ-TV)

“You know what? My mother always told me, ‘Look at the obvious, not the exotic,'” said parent Leigh Clark. “So I just know that the school here in Bellingham is very, they’re cautious, they always have resource people here, great administration as well as faculty, and so I know they were handling it well.”

The school had to send out follow up messages on social media and email. Bellingham police even posted a message on Facebook for concerned parents, saying “Please do not call the school. Everything is fine.”

Superintendent Peter Marano apologized for the error. He said it was human error and the wrong button was pushed; 730 families received the error call.

“We wanted to take a moment to apologize for the false absentee message that went out to all parents this morning,” Marano said in a statement. “There was a technical issue with our system that caused this information to go out in error. The safety and care of your children is our first priority and we deeply apologize for any undo panic this may have caused your family.”


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