School officials quash violent rumors: Grand Forks Police: Rumors tied to Maya calendar, not Connecticut shootingRumors flying this week in Grand Forks high schools, including of a school shooting planned for Friday, pushed school officials in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, Minn., to email students and parents Thursday to say there was no real threat.
By: By Stephen J. Lee, Forum Communications, The Jamestown Sun
GRAND FORKS — Rumors flying this week in Grand Forks high schools, including of a school shooting planned for Friday, pushed school officials in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, Minn., to email students and parents Thursday to say there was no real threat.
“Due to the heightened sensitivity surrounding school safety, we felt it was important to communicate directly with you about this matter,” said the email from the office of Grand Forks Superintendent Larry Nybladh. “School district administration and the Grand Forks Police Department have extensively investigated all rumors and determined them to be unfounded and without merit.”
The office of East Grand Forks Superintendent David Pace sent out a similarly worded email. It added that “at this point school will be in session and a noticeable police presence will be at East Grand Forks schools. Although we believe through investigation these rumors are without merit we have taken this information very seriously.”
No extra security measures were needed or taken in Grand Forks schools, said police Lt. Mark Nelson. Still, vigilance is up since the Newtown, Conn., school shooting last week in which a man killed 20 elementary students and six educators, he said.
It’s typical for rumors to escalate after events such as the Connecticut shooting, Nybladh said in a statement to the press.
One mother of a junior at Central High called the Herald Thursday morning seeking information about the rumors her daughter had heard about from teachers on Wednesday and Thursday.
“The rumor was there was going to be a school shooting tomorrow,” said the woman, asking that her name not be published to protect her daughter’s identity. “She was kind of hesitant to go to school tomorrow.”
Grand Forks police don’t want to say too much about their investigation this week, including details of the false rumors, because it wouldn’t help anything, said Nelson.
“Let’s just say the… two rumors we investigated, we were able to say they are not credible,” he said.
The two false rumors appear to be unrelated to each other, but both seemed animated mostly by the belief that the world will end today, based on a reading of an ancient Maya calendar.
They involved students here as well as others from outside Grand Forks School District and the region, Nelson said. There was no clear link to any particular school violence elsewhere, he said.
“It was a really a vintage school rumor that kind of grew legs,” he said. “By thorough investigation, we were able to cut through to the crux of the issue and determine… there was no means or credible threat to the school.”
Nobody has been charged and it isn’t clear anyone committed any crimes or misdemeanors, he said.
Nybladh praised the police work in helping track down each rumor. “I have confidence in their information and advice.”
The main thing was good collaboration with school officials and parents and other relatives to quickly determine there were no real threats, Nelson said.
The system worked well in this case, he said. The very social media venues through which the rumors were spread also were used by others, including peers of people involved, to report the rumors to teachers and other officials, he said.
“If a positive can be taken from this whole thing, it’s that the peers are taking some responsibility for the actions of some other peers, to make sure things go as they should,” he said.
“While it is concerning that false rumors are circulating and causing an increase in anxiety, I am pleased that students have reported information to school leaders,” Nybladh said.
The mother of the Central junior said her daughter plans to attend classes today.
“You hear so much stuff, you don’t know what to believe,” she said. “It’s kind of scary when it’s so close to home.”