School districts respond to threat rumors

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by JOE FRYER / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on December 20, 2012 at 11:34 PM

SEATTLE -- School districts across the Pacific Northwest -- and the country -- were trying to ease parents' concerns Thursday night.  Unsubstantiated threats of school shootings were running rampant because of the Connecticut shooting and Mayan end-of-the-world hype. 

The Bremerton School District sent phone messages to families Thursday. 

"We have received information from the Bremerton Police Department regarding rumors of potential threats to schools," the message said.  "Although we are not along in the threats that have been reported across the nation, our number one concern is always the safety of our students and staff."

The Kitsap County Sheriff's Department said extra deputies would be at schools on Friday as a precaution. 

KING 5 received numerous phone calls and emails from concerned parents Thursday night, either because they have heard rumors or because they received messages from the school districts.

Across the country, social media has been buzzing with rumors about school shootings, inspired by the one-week anniversary of the Connecticut shooting and the Mayan calendar's "doomsday" predictions for Friday.

'Social media has been a game-changer," said Sandy Catt, with the Longview School District, one of two Southwest Washington districts that dealt with threats this week.  In both cases, authorities identified students who made the threats.  They believe no one was at risk in either case. 

But in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, many schools decided to close Friday. 

"The rumors were getting out of control, causing so much concern and stress on students and families that we realized, ultimately, we weren't going to be able to have a productive and calm school day tomorrow," said district spokeswoman Laura Rumpler.

Tenino's police chief told KING 5 News that his agency investigated a rumor where it appeared older kids were using the Connecticut shooting to scare younger kids in the district.  In the end, police believe there is no legitimate threat, but extra patrols will be at the schools as a precaution.   

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