December 20 (By Jaclyn O’Laughlin for RIA Novosti) – Thousands of students in Michigan are getting a couple of extra days off after classes were cancelled Thursday and Friday amid rumors of violence related to the Mayan calendar’s prediction the world will end on Friday and heightened sensitivity about safety after last week’s massacre at a Connecticut elementary school.
“In this era we are not taking the chance, and we are not willing to be dismissive about student safety especially in the wake of Connecticut. It was an easy decision,” said Matt Wandrie, superintendent of Lapeer Community Schools, in an interview with RIA Novosti about the decision made by school leaders to cancel classes for approximately 81,000 students in three counties.
Officials made the decision Wednesday evening after a “rumor mill started to spike” and many parents became concerned after hearing “vague second-and-third-hand accounts” that students and individuals were saying things like “let’s go out with a bang on Friday” and that there would be “gun violence,” said Wandrie.
Parents started to express their anxieties on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter and some even came into the schools informing administrators they would not have their child attend class due to the speculation of violence, Wandrie said.
“When parents hear those comments they believe they must be true, and we decided to act right now to deal with this,” said Wandrie, who posted a letter on his district’s website announcing the class cancellations along with administrators from two other counties.
Wandrie said the rumors were unsubstantiated threats, but there is an increased awareness about school safety after the recent massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 20 children and six adults dead.
“We have to be cognizant of what is happening around us,” he said. “We can’t bury our heads in the sand and say ‘It won’t happen here.’ We are not going to do that.”
In Wandrie’s letter to parents he said, “Given the recent events in Connecticut, there have been numerous rumors circulating in our district, and in neighboring districts, about potential threats of violence against students. Additionally, rumors connected to the Mayan calendar predicted end of the world on Friday have also surfaced.”
The letter also said it was “the most appropriate decision” to cancel classes “given the gravity of recent events and our present circumstances” and the fact that the rumors had become a “serious distraction for students, teachers, administrators, and parents.”
Extracurricular events, programs and athletic contests and practices were also cancelled for students in all 33 schools.