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Rumors of School Shootings Circulate in Racine Unified and Area Districts

Racine Unified, Waukesha, Oak Creek and Menomonee Falls are among the districts dealing with rumors of threats of violence on Friday.

Just days after the tragic elementary school shooting in Newtown, CT, school district administrators throughout southeastern Wisconsin — and the country — are addressing rumors of shooting threat at their districts.

In none of the districts has an actual threat been discovered, however, several districts have sent letters to parents and beefed up security, and are working with local police to address the situation.

Districts where rumors have been circulating include Racine Unified, Waukesha, Oak Creek, Menomonee Falls, Hamilton, Arrowhead, Greenfield and Cudahy.

RUSD sent a letter home (attached) with students Wednesday for parents letting them know that they are taking the rumors seriously.

"Our administrative staff and our police liaison/security director are thoroughly investigating all information brought forward," the letter reads. "To date nothing has indicated that there is a threat to student safety on Friday."

Further, the letter addresses students who might want attention by adding to the drama by reporting a false threat to authorities.

"Given the distraction from learning and the volume of time these investigations take, please be sure that your children are aware that providing false information will result in serious consequences at school and with the police," the letter continued. "The times are too serious for anyone to take advantage of our concern."

School will progress as scheduled Friday, but police and district officials will be visible to provide comfort and security and serve as a deterrant for potential trouble.

"While we intend to be visible and vigilant on Friday, we do intend to continue with classes. We have asked local police departments to increase their presence around our school buildings that day. Our crisis team of counselors will also be available to provide support as needed," the letter concludes. 

Several other districts in the area are taking precautions in response to a rumor that began circulating on Facebook.

According to a report from the Waukesha Police Department, a rumor circulated via social media of a possible shooting at Waukesha North High School on Friday.

Waukesha school officials said they would take extra precautions, and are tightening school security and locking all doors. The rumor that originated on Facebook spread to students and parents in the area.

"At this point, this information is being released simply to inform and not to alarm or cause a panic," stated the Waukesha Police Department in a Tuesday news release. "The Waukesha School District and Police Department are working jointly to address the rumors as neighboring schools in the District have experienced a similar situation. This is most likely fueled by the ability to quickly communicate through the use of social networking sites."

In Oak Creek, Superintendent Sara Burmeister said the threat is not considered credible, but police are taking it seriously and are investigating.

"This rumor has raised considerable anxiety among parents, coming as it does right after the unfathomable horror of the tragic shootings in Connecticut and while the shooting at the Sikh Temple is still fresh in our minds," Burmeister said in a letter to parents.

Similiar threats reported nationwide

The school violence threats seem to be a national trend in a country on edge after the tragic elementary school shooting last week and the claimed end of the world on Friday, according to the Mayan calendar.

Threats spread via social media and hard-to-trace text messages about violence on Friday in a number of middle and high schools in Hillsborough County, Florida, according to the Tampa Bay Times. There, two students have already been arrested for false claims, and bullets have been found on two school buses.

A high school in Michigan is also dealing with fake claims about gun shots fired on Wednesday, according to Mlive.com, and school staff are putting a plan in place to combat rumors that students may bring weapons to school on Friday.

Similar situations have also been reported in: Pennsylvania, according to WBNG12 Action News; Oregon, according to The Register-Guard; and Missouri, according to KTTS.com.

— Patch editors Sarah Millard, Mark Schaaf, Lyssa Beyer and Mark Maley contributed to this report.

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