21 Aug 2014
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Rumors of School Shootings Circulate at Area Districts

Greendale put the school on hold after sightings of a suspicious man. Other districts dealing with rumors of threats of violence on Friday include Waukesha, Oak Creek and Menomonee Falls.

Just days after the tragic elementary school shooting in Newtown, CT, school district administrators throughout southeastern Wisconsin — and the country — are addressing rumors of shooting threat at their districts.

In none of the districts has an actual threat been discovered, however, several districts have sent letters to parents and beefed up security, and are working with local police to address the situation.

Districts where rumors have been circulating include Waukesha, Oak Creek, Menomonee Falls, Hamilton, Arrowhead, Greenfield, Greendale and Cudahy.

However, several other districts in the area are taking precautions in response to a rumor that began circulating on Facebook.

Greendale High School was put on lockdown today after a suspcious person was seen in the building. It was later determined there was no threat to the school.

The students were released from the classrooms after the building was checked.

According to a report from the Waukesha Police Department, a rumor circulated via social media of a possible shooting at Waukesha North High School on Friday.

Waukesha school officials said they would take extra precautions, and are tightening school security and locking all doors. The rumor that originated on Facebook spread to students and parents in the area.

"At this point, this information is being released simply to inform and not to alarm or cause a panic," stated the Waukesha Police Department in a Tuesday news release. "The Waukesha School District and Police Department are working jointly to address the rumors as neighboring schools in the District have experienced a similar situation. This is most likely fueled by the ability to quickly communicate through the use of social networking sites."

Staying in touch with parents

The Menomonee Falls School District joined numerous other districts across the state in addressing threats of violence.

"Superintendents across the region and across the state are experiencing the rumors of threats for Friday. We are not different," said Menomonee Falls Superintendent Patricia Greco.

The district sent at statement to families Tuesday in response to the most recent rumor.

"In cooperation with the police department, any concerns about specific students have been investigated. These investigations have included interviews with the students and families, locker searches and social media monitoring," the district stated. "To date nothing has indicated that there is a threat to student safety on Friday. While we intend to be visible and vigilant on Friday we do intend to continue with classes. As a parent you have every right to keep your children home on Friday."

Late Tuesday, Hamilton School District administrators received calls from parents who were hearing rumors from their children of a potential threat. Denise Lindberg, public information officer for the district, said administrators investigated the specific claims and none were substantiated.

“We are grateful to the parents and students who let us know when they are hearing things outside of school, and encourage people to contact us if they have specific information that we can investigate,” Lindberg said in an email to Patch. “Given what occurred in Connecticut last week, it is understandable for people to have a heightened concern for safety in our schools. We will continue to investigate rumors and take measures to protect students from danger.”

Lindberg said the district had not sent out letters or notifications to parents, but may consider it.

In Oak Creek, Superintendent Sara Burmeister said the threat is not considered credible, but police are taking it seriously and are investigating.

"This rumor has raised considerable anxiety among parents, coming as it does right after the unfathomable horror of the tragic shootings in Connecticut and while the shooting at the Sikh Temple is still fresh in our minds," Burmeister said in a letter to parents.

Similiar threats reported nationwide

The school violence threats seem to be a national trend in a country on edge after the tragic elementary school shooting last week and the claimed end of the world on Friday, according to the Mayan calendar.

Threats spread via social media and hard-to-trace text messages about violence on Friday in a number of middle and high schools in Hillsborough County, Florida, according to the Tampa Bay Times. There, two students have already been arrested for false claims, and bullets have been found on two school buses.

A high school in Michigan is also dealing with fake claims about gun shots fired on Wednesday, according to Mlive.com, and school staff are putting a plan in place to combat rumors that students may bring weapons to school on Friday.

Similar situations have also been reported in: Pennsylvania, according to WBNG12 Action News;  Oregon, according to The Register-Guard; and Missouri, according to KTTS.com.

— Patch editors Sarah Millard, Mark Schaaf, Lyssa Beyer and Mark Maley contributed to this report.

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