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Oklahoma tornadoes: Moore school district dispels, condemns rumor that praying teacher was fired

Oklahoma tornadoes: Moore Superintendent Susan Pierce said no teacher was fired for praying with students during the May 20 tornado, and the school does not even employ a teacher by the name used in the hoax circulated online.
BY BRYAN DEAN Modified: May 27, 2013 at 10:50 pm •  Published: May 28, 2013

Moore school officials said Monday they have turned over a threatening email to police after a hoax story was spread online that the district fired a teacher for praying with her students during the May 20 tornado.

Moore Superintendent Susan Pierce said school officials are getting emotional messages from across the country from people who believed the story, including one email that included a specific threat against Briarwood Elementary Principal Shelley Jaques-McMillin.

Pierce said that email was turned over to police. The story has been particularly hurtful because it came as two children from Plaza Towers Elementary School were buried and as the district tried to celebrate the graduation of its seniors in the aftermath of the tornado.

“That is such a mean-spirited and disrespectful action,” Pierce said. “I was heartsick.”

The hoax started on a parody website but was picked up by bloggers and spread on social media. It cited the firing of a 52-year-old teacher named Paulina Trumble from Briarwood Elementary. No one by that name has ever been employed by the school, and the entire story is fictional, Pierce said.

Moore officials used their own social media presence to quickly deny the hoax, and Pierce said Facebook and Twitter have been valuable in getting information out to the community.

“I prayed before I came in here today,” Pierce said Monday in the cafeteria of Waylon Bonds Elementary, just north of the tornado's damage path.

“We haven't stopped praying since the tornado happened. We are a faith-based community. You bet we were praying.”