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Real or Not, World’s End Is Trouble for Schools
Predictions of doomsday have come and gone repeatedly without coming true. But the latest prophecy, tethered to the Mayan calendar and forecasting that the world will self-destruct on Friday, has prompted many rumors of violence, with a particular focus on school shootings or bomb threats.

With students and parents already jittery after the shootings in Newtown, Conn., last week, rampant posts on Facebook and Twitter have fed the hysteria, and police departments across the country have been inundated with calls. Overwhelmed with the task of responding to threats and unconfirmed reports, districts in Bend, Ore., Stafford County, Va., Wake County, N.C., and Oak Creek, Wis., have sent out letters to parents trying to tamp down the panic.

In three counties in Michigan, Genesee, Lapeer and Sanilac, administrators were spending so much time dealing with reports of planned violence that the superintendents decided to send 80,000 students on their winter holiday break two days early.

“We hate canceling school more than anything,” said Matt Wandrie, the superintendent of the Lapeer Community Schools, north of Detroit. “We’re not doing this because we think there’s an imminent threat to our students. We’re doing this because we’ve been doing nothing but policing.”

Mr. Wandrie said that students and parents were passing on rumors they had picked up online — “It was like ‘my niece’s neighbor’s daughter says there’s going to be gun violence at school on Friday,’ ” he said — and added that students were overheard in the hallways saying things like “Let’s go out with a bang on Friday.”

“If you’ve got students who are disenfranchised or unstable or members of a community who really believe this end of the world stuff,” he said, “whether I think it’s credible or not, as a fairly logical person and human being, I’m not going to take that risk.”

Similar rumors prompted about 50 parents to call the police department...
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