Although there are no credible threats, as a precaution Pinellas County Schools will increase patrols by local law enforcement agencies around campuses due to rumors of potential violence connected to the end of the Mayan calendar on Friday, Dec. 21, according to school officials.
The increased security will be in place to make students and parents feel more secure, said Melanie Marquez, Pinellas County Schools spokeswoman.
“This is happening all over the country,” Marquez said.
Authorities may have found a source of the rumors which have circulated at schools including Tarpon Springs, Clearwater and Pinellas Park through Facebook and other social media since Monday, Marquez said. She is only aware of one source being found and did not know additional information.
The decision whether or not school absences are excused on Dec. 21, is being handled at the school level, Marquez said. School is scheduled for the day, which is the last before the winter break.
Clearwater schools, like all Pinellas County Schools, have a security plan in place to cover crisis situations.
Pinellas students started reporting rumors of potential violence mostly associated with the end of the Mayan calendar on Monday and Tuesday. Some students reportedly started hearing the rumors last week.
With the Connecticut shooting on Friday, that raised students' level of awareness and apparently caused them to report what they were hearing, Marquez said.
“I think that the students that have come forward with information should be commended," Marquez said.
Pinellas County School superintendent Mike Grego sent an email to principals on Tuesday, which said in part that school officials were taking the threats seriously, but no credible threats had been found at this time.
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, December 21, 2012. Law enforcement agencies and administrators are investigating these rumors to determine their origin and assess their validity. No credible threats have been found at this time.
There are news reports of similar rumors circulating among students at schools elsewhere in Florida and the nation. Some reports associate the rumors with the purported end of the Mayan calendar on December 21, 2012. Please be assured that we are taking every report seriously and doing everything we can to ensure student safety. If any credible threat is found, those involved will face appropriate disciplinary action at the school level and/or criminal charges as determined by law enforcement.
Some rumors began last week prior to the tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut. After learning of the tragedy, students began reporting the rumors to school administrators yesterday and today. Parents have also contacted school administrators with information they received from their children. Any student or parent that comes forward with information that could help ensure the safety of their school should be commended.
If you receive reports of these rumors at your school, please involve your School Resource Officer or contact Pinellas Schools Police at (727) 547-7221. Law enforcement officers may increase their presence in and around schools this week due to these rumors.