Some school districts in Michigan have made the decision to close schools early for the winter break due to the disruption caused by false rumors of violence against students and the end of the world, according to assorted district websites.
Superintendents all say there have been no credible threats against schools or students, but since every threat has to be investigated, educators haven’t had enough time to do their real jobs. Supt Matt Wandrie from the Lapeer Community Schools writes:
these rumors have been a serious distraction for students, teachers, administrators, and parents. Therefore, given the significant disruption to the teaching and learning process, I have decided, along with my fellow superintendents of Lapeer County, to cancel school for both Thursday, December 20th, and Friday, December 21st. This includes all after school extracurricular events, programs and athletic contests and practices.
And in a press release from one intermediate district in Genesee County, where every school district has canceled school for Thursday and Friday, we read the following:
We have discussed information from local law enforcement, the realities of being able to investigate every threat, information related to district sensitivities, and our concerns about whether a normal instructional day could be achieved.
Here in Maryland, some threats have been credible, but all of them have disrupted school operations. For example, Principal Brian K Eyer at Digital Harbor High School sent a letter home to parents Wednesday that claimed a situation that threatened the school community had been brought under control.
“I want to assure you that here at Digital Harbor High School, we take everyone’s safety seriously and work diligently to maintain a secure environment for teaching and learning,” The Baltimore Sun quoted him as writing. “As part of our ongoing safety protocols, staff members conduct periodic safety checks. As of Tuesday, we are now also doing daily safety checks, which we will continue into the new year. Students and visitors coming into the building must go through a metal detector.”
Police in Anne Arundel County were also reported to be trying to tame rumors of violence against students and schools, WBAL-TV (NBC affiliate) reported.
Although the investigation of rumors distracts educators and takes them away from school routines, classes continued across the county. No school days have been cancelled at this point.
“If they decide they are going to withhold children from school on Friday, that’s going to be a family personal decision, but we are going to run school on our regular schedule,” WBAL quoted Anne Arundel County School Superintendent Kevin Maxwell as saying.
Police and school officials urged students not to post on Facebook or Twitter when they hear a rumor. Instead, they should call police with information about the threat.
“We are the ones who can help protect and help investigate that, not your friends,” one police lieutenant was quoted as saying.
A heightened alert status
All schools right now are on heightened alert statuses following the mass killing at an elementary school in Connecticut on Friday, Dec. 14. Even in Michigan, where officials closed schools, though, there is a sense of trying to get back to school business as soon as possible.
We are reading reports from across the country, including here in Maryland, where kids are reaching out to the Newtown community, trying to help them cope with what seems impossible to cope with. Students in Baltimore City schools, for example, made paper hearts for their peers in Connecticut, according to one story in the Baltimore Sun.