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Maroochydore High School Answering Machine Message Hoax

by Brett M. Christensen

This story was first published on February 10, 2010

Outline

Circulating message claims that staff at Maroochydore High School in Queensland, Australia have implemented a sarcastic automated answering service that bluntly points out that teachers are not responsible for the poor behaviour and lack of commitment of students and their parents. 

Brief Analysis

The claims in the email are untrue. Maroochydore High School is a real school, but it does not, nor did it ever have an answering machine message like the one described. The “School Answering Machine” message outlined in the email is a long running joke that has been falsely associated with a number of schools in several countries.

Example

Subject: School Answering Machine………………

This is hilarious – no wonder some people were offended! This is the message that the Maroochydore High School Queensland, staff voted unanimously to record on their school telephone answering machine . This is the actual answering machine message for the school. This came about because they implemented a policy requiring students and parents to be responsible for their children’s absences and missing homework. The school and teachers are being sued by parents who want their children’s failing grades changed to passing grades – even though those children were absent 15-30 times during the semester and did not complete enough school work to pass their classes.

The outgoing message:

Hello! You have reached the automated answering service of your school. In order to assist you in connecting to the right staff member, please listen to all the options before making a selection:

To lie about why your child is absent – Press 1

To make excuses for why your child did not do his work – Press 2

To complain about what we do – Press 3

To swear at staff members – Press 4

To ask why you didn’t get information that was already enclosed in your newsletter and several flyers mailed to you – Press 5

If you want us to raise your child – Press 6

If you want to reach out and touch, slap or hit someone – Press 7

To request another teacher, for the third time this year – Press 8

To complain about bus transportation – Press 9

To complain about school lunches – Press 0

If you realize this is the real world and your child must be Accountable and responsible for his/her own behaviour, class work, homework and that it’s not the teachers’ fault for your child’s lack of effort: Hang up and have a nice day!

If you want this in another language, move to a country that speaks it.

 

Detailed Analysis

This widely circulated email forward claims that an attached sound or video file contains an actual example of the answering machine message used by Maroochydore High School, a state school located in the city of Maroochydore on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. The message usually features a .wav or.mp3 file that is supposedly a recording of the school’s automated answering service message. Some versions also include a text transcript of the supposed message.

The sarcastic message presents callers with a list of options that outline a range of possible complaints about school services or teachers. These options imply that all calling parents or guardians are intent on blaming the school for any problems rather than being willing to take at least some responsibility for the education and behaviour of their own children.
However, Maroochydore State High School does not have any such message on its school answering machine. Nor has it ever done so. In fact, the supposed message has circulated around the Internet for several years. During its journeys, successive pranksters have modified the name of the school that is claimed to have the message on its phone system. Other versions have featured a high school in California, schools in the Midlands area of the UK, and schools in various other locations around the world. A more generic version of the piece that does not name any specific school has also been posted to a great many joke and humour websites.

The rapid spread of the “Maroochydore” version of the hoax has pushed the school into the limelight all around the world. A September 2009 article in the Sunshine Coast Daily notes:

MAROOCHYDORE High School is gaining a massive international publicity boost after several people placed a hoax answering machine message on YouTube.

The clip has been uploaded by at least three people who say teachers at the Sunshine Coast school unanimously voted to record the message which gives callers a number of humorous options to follow.

The message has been circulated around the world and has previously been attributed to other schools and frequently identified as a hoax.

And an Education Queensland spokesperson told Sunshine Coast Daily that the “message is clearly a hoax that appears in many forms on the internet and is in no way connected to the school”.

According to urban legends website Snopes.com, the fake answering machine message began life during a 2002 dispute between teachers, school administrators and parents at Pacific Palisades Charter High School in California. The dispute involved the implementation of an attendance policy in which students that had unexcused absences of ten or more days per semester were automatically failed. The Snopes article notes that teachers, disgruntled at what they viewed as the unhelpful and unrealistic attitude of many parents during the dispute, wrote down the mock answering machine message as a reflection of their frustrations. However, the answering machine message penned by these teachers was never actually used on Pacific Palisades Charter High School’s answering service nor was there ever any serious intention to do so.

It is unclear who created the audio version of the message. However, what is clear is that Maroochydore High School does not use and never has used the inflammatory answering machine message outlined in this email forward. Nor have any of the other schools listed in alternative versions of the story. And, for the record, a recent call to the Maroochydore State High School was answered by a polite human staff member rather than an insulting answering machine message.



Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,
Hoax-Slayer