School officials nationwide planned to beef up security on Friday — and in a few cases hastily canceled classes for the rest of the week — amid rumored threats of violence, some related to doomsday scenarios based on the Maya calendar.
Officials said they had uncovered no substantial threats, but erred on the side of caution considering that the rumors were coming less than a week after the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn.
In Michigan, schools in Genesee and Lapeer counties, north of Detroit, started the Christmas break Wednesday night, two days earlier than planned and two days before the predicted end of the world in the Maya calendar, a notion widely debunked by archaeological records.
In a note to parents posted on Michigan’s Lapeer Community Schools website, Superintendent Matt Wandrie said “numerous rumors circulating in our district, and in neighboring districts, about potential threats of violence against students” proved false. Officials found no credible threats against students, but he said the rumors “have been a serious distraction for students, teachers, administrators, and parents.” He canceled classes for both Thursday and Friday, “given the gravity of recent events” in Connecticut.
Tom English, superintendent of Michigan’s North Branch Area Schools, told the Detroit Free Press that rumors about potential threats were unsubstantiated, but added, “When children are thinking about that sort of stuff — about whether I’m safe — it’s very difficult for them to concentrate.”
In Wake County, N.C., interim Superintendent Stephen Gainey told parents that he’d asked local police for “extra support” in the schools where a rumor of violence was circulating.
In Hillsborough County, Fla., police said they’d increase security at schools on Friday. Jason Napoli of the county sheriff’s department said deputies were “extremely overwhelmed” with threats. “It is taking away our ability to monitor other things on campus,” he told The Tampa Tribune this week.
In Mesa, Ariz., authorities arrested a 16-year-old girl Thursday after she posted a threat on YouTube that she had a plan to kill people at her high school and then commit suicide. The Maricopa County Sheriff Office said the girl had access to guns at her home, but never brought firearms to Red Mountain High School.
In Anne Arundel County, Md., police were working to dispel Facebook and Twitter rumors of violent threats at 20 county schools on Friday; they said no credible threats had turned up. Superintendent Kevin Maxwell said it would be a personal decision if parents decided to keep their children home on Friday.
In Oak Creek, Wis., Superintendent Sara Burmeister said rumors of threats in southeastern Wisconsin were unsubstantiated, but she said police were tracking how the rumors were spread, “with significant consequences for those who provide false information or try to generate more threats.”