Dunnellon Middle School Valentine's Day Dance canceled over fake 'active shooter' threat, deputies say

An after-school Valentine's Day dance at Dunnellon Middle School was abruptly canceled after a false report of an active shooter, according to the Marion County Sheriff's Office.

The incident left students and parents in a state of panic.

Trinity Townsend, an 8th-grade student at Dunnellon Middle School, described the ordeal as nerve-wracking and scary. She, along with dozens of other students, found themselves waiting for hours in the cafeteria.

"I got rushed into a corner, and then everyone was pushing each other," she said. "I was crying. I was upset. Me and my friend were crying. Kids were just sitting there trying to calm me, my friend, down and stuff because I was upset."

Trinity's mother, Michele Tullis, received a distressing message from her daughter, who believed she was saying her last goodbye due to the perceived threat.

"I get a message from Trinity giving me her last goodbye, thinking she's going to die, that there's an active shooter inside because that's what all the students were, you know, made to believe," Tullis told FOX 35. 

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Courtesy: Michele Tullis

The incident prompted a massive law enforcement presence outside the school, with parents anxiously waiting for answers and confirmation of their children's safety.

"We see people unloading with equipment on, you know, assault rifles. They have medics going in five at a time, so parents think something is actively happening," Tullis added.

Tullis recounted the alarming sight of armed personnel unloading equipment and medics entering the premises, contributing to the widespread belief that an active threat was present. She expressed the emotional toll the situation took on her daughter.

"Whoever made the hoax, whatever type of hoax it is, I hope they get a hold of that person, and they understand this is more than just something comical, whatever it was supposed to be," Tullis said. "It's serious, and these kids' lives' are going to be affected."

Eventually, students and staff received an all-clear from Marion County sheriff's deputies.

The false active shooter threat disrupted what should have been a joyful occasion, leaving the school community shaken and prompting a call for heightened awareness and consequences for those who instigate such incidents.

This is a developing story.