School Officials Cite Apocalypse "Rumors" Among Reasons for Closure

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 20 2012 1:20 PM

School Officials Cite Apocalypse "Rumors" Among Reasons for Closure. Really.

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Tourists are seen in front of the 'Gran Jaguar' Mayan temple at the Tikal archaeological site in Peten departament on December 19, 2012

Photo by Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images.

A school district in Michigan sent students and staff at 33 schools home on Christmas break two days earlier than planned today, mostly due to fears of potential copy-cat violence in the wake of last week's tragedy in Newtown. The temporary school closures are slightly newsy in themselves, but it's the secondary rationale behind the decision that really stands out.

Here, we'll let Lapeer County superintendent Matt Wandrie explain, as he did in a letter posted to his district's website (emphasis ours):

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. These rumors of violence have been thoroughly investigated and determined to be false. There have been no credible threats made against any of our students. However, these rumors have been a serious distraction for students, teachers, administrators, and parents. ...
Although we in the county are reluctant to cancel school because the rumors are unsubstantiated, we feel it is the most appropriate decision given the gravity of recent events and our present circumstances.
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To be fair to the county school officials, even fully-discredited rumors of the End of The World can lead to some evolutionarily engineered existential distress. Still, it's a little shocking that they'd even mention the Mayan-apocalypse fears in the same letter as rumors of a possible school shooting.

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.

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