DANVILLE, Va. -

Danville is the most recent victim of a social media hoax that's spread across the country. Hundreds of parents saw it as a threat and kept their kids out of school Friday.

This rumor is known as the purge, stemming from a 2013 horror movie where there were random acts of violence.

The principal here was confident in saying George Washington High School was the safest place to be Friday.

The student parking lots were nearly empty. A sure sign students and their parents weren't taking any chances.

"Today will count as an unexcused absence because I know a lot of parents are holding their children out of school," said George Washington High School Principal Withers Jackson.

Jackson says there were so many students out Friday, his staff didn't keep record. On Thursday, more than 800 of the 2,500 students enrolled at George

Washington High School checked out early. Jackson says all this started when teachers got a message earlier this week from an anonymous number mentioning a purge and the tales only grew from there.

Other schools took precautions too. Park Avenue Elementary School sent out a letter to parents stating the school was on lockout Friday, meaning students couldn't go outside for recess.

"I think everything should be taken serious until proven otherwise. It may all be a hoax but it may not," said Adrieene Tate, a parent. She kept her 8- year-old son at home.

"I think he is better in my care than he is in a nervous environment," Tate said.

She read rumor after rumor online of potential violence in Danville and would rather her son stay home then feel unsafe.

The rumors of a purge have circulated across the country with similar threats at schools in Texas, Arizona, Kentucky, Delaware, and Georgia.

"If there ever is a threat made on social media, take it as credible. Provide that information to law enforcement," said Tod Burke, a criminal justice professor at Radford University.

Burke says it's better to immediately call police when there is a rumor spreading online, but don't add incorrect information.

"What if the information is incorrect, ... you've created panic where a panic did not need to exist," Burke said.

The football game at George Washington is still on for Friday night, but will have a heavy police presence.

========================

A rumor of a threat at George Washington High School in Danville has prompted a larger police presence than normal.

Withers Jackson, who is the school’s principal, said more students are absent Friday than normal. Jackson did not have exact numbers about the number of students out of school. On Thursday, 800 of the school's 2,500 students were either pulled out of school or did not attend.

On Thursday a letter was sent home with parents at Park Avenue Elementary School stating that the school is under a lockout Friday. A lockout means that students are not allowed outside of the building for recess. Also, all transportation changes for students must be made in writing.

Adrienne Tate is the parent of a student at another school. She held her child out of class Friday. Tate says she doesn’t want her child to attend school under any type of threat. Hear more about this story Friday night on WDBJ7.