Area school districts: No truth to school violence, Mayan apocalypse rumors
By Emily McFarlan Miller firstname.lastname@example.org December 20, 2012 3:18PM
** CORRECTS DAY TO SATURDAY ** In this Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012 photo, tourists climb the pyramid at the archeological site in Coba, Mexico. Amid a worldwide frenzy of advertisers and new-agers preparing for a Maya apocalypse, one group is approaching Dec. 21 with calm and equanimity ó the people whose ancestors supposedly made the prediction in the first place. (AP Photo/Israel Leal)
Updated: January 22, 2013 6:28AM
Rumors about violence planned Friday in area schools are about as credible as rumors of the Mayan apocalypse that day.
That is to say they aren’t at all, according to officials in Elgin School District U46, Carpentersville-area Community Unit School District 300, Huntley Consolidated School District 158 and others.
“I feel safe coming to school, and you should feel safe sending your children,” South Elgin High School Principal Melanie Meidel said in a message sent Wednesday night to parents at the school.
U46 investigated two rumors this week, both started at high schools regarding the rumored end of the world Friday, Safety Coordinator John Heiderscheidt has said. He said Wednesday those rumors quickly were traced to their sources at the high schools.
The apocalyptic idea is based on the fact one of the cycles in the ancient Mayan calendar ends on Dec. 21. And that’s sparked rumors in school districts across the country, even closing more than 30 schools in Michigan, according to news reports.
“I think what they’re hearing in light of everything else going on this week with the attack at Sandy Hook (Elementary School last Friday in Newtown, Conn.) and the anxiety, people are hearing what they want to hear and conversations are taken out of context,” Heiderscheidt said.
Posts from parents on the U46 Facebook group note a number of principals have sent out messages assuring parents rumors they may hear from their children have been investigated, and there is no real danger to students. Security already is high at U46 schools this week following the school shooting half a country away, according to the message from Meidel.
“Principals from the surrounding area are also reporting the same situation regarding the spread of rumors due to the events that occurred in Connecticut last week, and Friday coinciding with the Mayan calendar. I want to share with you that we are aware of these rumors and that we take them very seriously,” she said.
And after sending a midweek safety update to parents and staff Wednesday night, Superintendent Jose Torres tweeted at about noon Thursday, “Have you heard that the end of the world is tomorrow? Whose time zone? It’s already 12/21/12 in over 20 cities!”
District 300 Safety Officer Gary Chester said the Carpentersville-area school district has heard similar rumors, mostly out of Jacobs High School in Algonquin, where he said students were “hearing some high schools are supposed to get shot up.”
“But in talking to those students, we’ve found Jacobs has not been mentioned in the rumor,” Chester said.
“We have no credible information. It’s all rumor and doom and gloom.”
In fact, he said those rumors “seem to have started growing from” Cary-Grove High School, and the school resource officer at Jacobs has been in contact with the school resource officer at Cary-Grove. The district safety officer said he also has heard of similar rumors in Burlington Central School District 301 and District 158.
Rumors of a weapon also canceled a dance over the weekend at Barrington High School, and Barrington Community Unit School District 220 promised “stringent” security this week at school holiday parties, according to the district’s website. And District 158 sent a message to parents and staff Wednesday night about a “gun threat” Friday it had investigated and declared “non-credible.”
Last week, rumors about a school shooting on Dec. 21 had spread from Oswego High School to Oswego East High School and several junior high schools in Oswego Community Unit School District 308 even before the shooting in Connecticut.
“In today’s social media, that stuff can spread like wildfire from mouth to mouth to mouth to mouth. Before you know it, it’s changed so much and evolved into something different. It just grows,” Chester said.
And Heiderscheidt said, “In keeping things in perspective, schools still are one of the safest places we have, and we work every day to ensure we keep it that way the best we can.”