Saturday, May 26, 2018
Education

Pinellas schools look into rumors of violence related to Mayan calendar

Students at a handful of Pinellas County schools have reported hearing rumors about potential violence on campuses Friday.

Pinellas Schools spokeswoman Melanie Marquez said the rumors began before the school shooting last week in Newtown, Conn.

Countryside High School's principal sent an automated phone message to parents on Tuesday. Marquez said rumors have been passed along to authorities at Northeast, Pinellas Park and Tarpon Springs high schools, as well as Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School.

City of Clearwater spokeswoman Joelle Castelli said the Police Department was contacted by school officials Tuesday about rumors of plans for an "attack" on Tarpon Springs High School by Countryside High School students on Friday.

Castelli said police went to the school and spoke to four students allegedly involved in the plans. The students "said it was all blown out of proportion," Castelli said. She said police determined no plans were being made for an assault on Tarpon Springs.

But the rumors were persistent enough that Pinellas superintendent Mike Grego on Tuesday sent an email to all principals.

"We have heard from some principals in our district that students reported a rumor, mostly circulated through social media, that there may be harm to students or gun violence at their respective schools on Friday," Grego wrote. He said school officials and police were taking the threat seriously, but added, "No credible threats have been found at this time."

It's not just Pinellas. School officials have been sending out similar messages in Colorado and Illinois, and rumors also were investigated at a school district Tuesday in Pennsylvania. They are tied to the belief that the Mayan calendar predicts the end of the world on Friday.

In his memo, Grego urged principals to contact school resource officers or the school system's police department if they hear or need information.

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