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Mayan doomsday fears prompt Michigan schools to close

Chicago, Dec 20, 2012 (AFP) 14:32 IST
Jack Gilchrist, 10, chews on a candy cane as he holds a 'Keep guns out of my school sign' as he and his mother protest outside the Breslin student center in East Lansing, Michigan December 15, 2012. Union members and supporters were demonstrating against Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, who was the feature speaker at the Michigan State University commencement ceremony, and the 'Right To Work' laws that he had signed on Tuesday. REUTERS
Mayan doomsday jitters and fears of violence after a horrific school shooting in Connecticut prompted officials in Michigan to send thousands of students home early for the Christmas break.

All five school districts in Lapeer County decided to cancel classes today and tomorrow after rumors of copycat violence swept through the rural area, Lapeer Community Schools superintendent Matt Wandrie said.

"Additionally, rumors connected to the Mayan calendar predicted end of the world on Friday have also surfaced," Wandrie wrote in a notice to parents posted on the district's website.

While the rumors were "thoroughly investigated and determined to be false" they have been "a serious distraction for students, teachers, administrators, and parents" and have been a "significant disruption to the teaching and learning process," he wrote.

"Although we in the county are reluctant to cancel school because the rumors are unsubstantiated, we feel it is the most appropriate decision given the gravity of recent events and our present circumstances."

After school activities -- including a hockey game on Saturday -- were also cancelled.
Schools across the country have planned to hold moments of silence tomorrow morning in honor of the 20 six and seven year olds and six staff members killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

That won't be the case in Genesee County, Michigan where 21 mostly rural school districts serving 75,000 students also cancelled classes on Thursday and Friday.
"Our communities are anxious, parents are concerned about the safety of their children," the county's regional school authority said on its website.

"There are rumors that have multiplied as a result of social media, and there are threats within local districts that bring pause as to whether conducting classes would be appropriate."

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