Medford School District officials and police have announced that classes will be held at all Medford schools today as normal, saying rumors of potential violence are unsubstantiated and fueled by a nationwide Internet hoax.
"There has been a Facebook/Internet rumor going around about someone bringing a gun to school on Friday because it is 'the end of the world,' " Mike Jackson, Medford Police Department school resource officer at South Medford High School, posted on his Facebook page Thursday.
"We have interviewed a number of students who have posted messages to their facebook page and so far we have not found any credible information that the threat is real."
Police and district officials speculate the nationwide rumors stem from both the Newtown, Conn., school shootings of Dec. 14 and the end of the Mayan calendar, which some have speculated will mean the end of the world today.
Medford Police Chief Tim George said the department chases threats and rumors of threats daily, even if most of them turn out not to be true.
"The same thing happened when we had the shooting in Colorado," George said. "I think there's a certain amount of people that throw gas on the fire. It doesn't take much to start a wildfire rumor."
Police will have an increased presence in and around the schools, including the school resource officers who are already in place, George said, adding the safest place for students on today is in the classroom. District officials agree.
"No one has been able to substantiate anything," Superintendent Phil Long said. "It's more 'I heard.' We're prepared for a full day of school (today)."
Parents with a concern can keep their children at home and excuse their absence, just as they can on any given day. No changes will be made to the usual policy that counts students unaccounted for as truant.
"We have to have parents involved in that decision," Long said. "If there's a real concern, we need to know what the concern is."
In an open letter available on the district's website, Long explained that employees have taken extra steps to increase security measures and review procedures should a crisis occur.
"We have a heightened level of alert because of what happened (in Newtown)," Long said.
George added December typically is the busiest month for law enforcement, and that patrols already have been increased to meet that need.
"December is the busiest month of the year, period," George said.
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.