Updated Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Dozens of Michigan schools canceled classes for thousands of students to cool off rumored threats of violence and problems related to doomsday scenarios based on the Mayan calendar, officials said Thursday.
Public schools in Genesee and Lapeer counties, neighboring counties north of the Detroit area, started the Christmas break Wednesday night rather than hold classes the rest of the week. Meanwhile, police investigated whether students made false claims about guns at the high school in Grand Blanc, said John Potbury, a spokesman for the Genesee County prosecutor.
Last week's shooting at a Connecticut elementary school "changed all of us. ... Canceling school is the right thing to do," Genesee County schools said in a statement.
A Lapeer-area superintendent, Matt Wandrie, said rumors of violence had become a major distraction for students and staff and disrupted learning. Additionally, he said in a message to parents, "rumors connected to the Mayan calendar predicted end of the world on Friday have also surfaced."
Friday is the day when some people believe ancient Mayan calendars predicted the world would end.
"Although we in the county are reluctant to cancel school because the rumors are unsubstantiated, we feel it is the most appropriate decision," Wandrie said in his message.
Michelle Muncy, who owns Buckz Cutz barber shop in Lapeer and has two teens in school, said officials made the right call. She gave her boys a chore list, including putting lights on a reindeer decoration.
"It's the safety of children first," Muncy said. "You never know what crazy person could walk in."
Elsewhere in Michigan, Cass City schools were supposed to hold classes for three days this week but decided to cancel after students said they overheard another student making a possible gun threat against a staff member last week. Two other small districts in the eastern part of the state, Marlette and Millington, also closed for the balance of the week.
School closings for Friday were announced in Monroe, where officials believed attendance would be very low anyway, and in Battle Creek, where officials said unsubstantiated rumors of trouble had spread on social media.
In Oklahoma, Bartlesville schools won't reopen until the new year after someone reported an armed man near a school Tuesday. He may have been a hunter. Minot, N.D., schools also scratched Friday classes when rumors circulated that students were going to bring guns to class. Many parents already had said they were keeping kids home as a precaution.
"I think this really centers around the issue of the Mayan calendar, and we don't anticipate any future problems," Superintendent Mark Vollmer said.
Associated Press writer Kristi Eaton in Sioux Falls, S.D., contributed to this report.
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