Anne Arundel County Police said a blog site published information that was not confirmed regarding a missing school principal and caused major panic in the community.
"Last night, a breaking news Facebook blog-type thing put out information, and that information wasn't vetted through Anne Arundel County Police or Anne Arundel County Public Schools," said Lt. T.J. Smith, a spokesman with the Anne Arundel County Police Department. "Had that information been vetted, I think it would have been a totally different outcome in this situation."
Police confirm that Southern High School's principal, Marc Procaccini, is listed as missing, but they say he was granted a leave of absence from the school district. They are investigating it as a 'check well being' case, because of the attention the situation has drummed up on social media.
"We don't want to delve into people's personal problems," Smith said. "At this point, because of all of the interest that this has garnered, we are asking to do a check well being. We just want to make sure that he's OK."
According to police, a family member reported Procaccini missing around 9:45 Tuesday night, saying he hadn't been seen since around 2:00 that morning. Right now, police say there is no indication of any foul play.
"This is important for people to understand that Facebook and Twitter and other social media sites can often cause panic when there is no need for panic," Smith said. "So, we're trying to make sure that the message is controlled and understood that we had other information and that was part of the reason last night that things weren't getting pushed out from the Police Department or county schools."
In response to the media attention, Southern's Assistant Principal Mike May released a letter to parents to clarify the situation.
"Rest assured that we all are in close contact with the Police Department and are continuing to assist in any way possible in this matter," May wrote. "Our school has counselors on staff who are available to talk at any time to students who have a need to discuss their feelings. Your child should not hesitate to seek out this assistance if necessary.
"Meanwhile, I know that you all join me in hoping that Mr. Procaccini is safe and well. I will keep you updated as I learn more information."
The Police Department is still looking for Procaccini. Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to call 410-222-8610.