Rumors of possible attacks put schools on alert

Speculation believed to be spread on Internet

May 06, 1999|By Kirsten Scharnberg and Erika Peterman | Kirsten Scharnberg and Erika Peterman,SUN STAFF

With rumors of May 10 schoolhouse attacks circulating wildly, education officials in Anne Arundel and Howard counties are making plans to deal with potentially dangerous situations and trying to reassure students and parents.

Anne Arundel school administrators will meet today to discuss how to deal with parental concerns and student fears about attacks rumored to be set for Monday, the day many pupils throughout the state are to take Maryland School Performance Assessment Program tests.

"We are going to sit down and assess how to handle this," said Ken Lawson, assistant superintendent of Anne Arundel County public schools. "We are going to take into account all comments, suggestions, rumors, concerns and information we have before we instruct our various principals on how to deal with that particular day."

Michael E. Hickey, Howard County superintendent, sent a letter home to parents today acknowledging rampant rumors about attacks planned for Monday and assuring students' safety.

"This information was supposedly announced on the Internet and is circulating nationwide," Hickey wrote. "We have been unable to verify whether such a site exists, but we are pursuing this with local law enforcement officials. We have also been in contact with the Maryland State Department of Education regarding the potential impact on Maryland school performance testing scheduled to begin next week in third grade and middle schools."

State school officials say they are aware of the rumors, but have not changed their plans.

"We are continuing to gather information as we have been all this week," said Ron Peiffer, spokesman for the State Board of Education. "At this point there are no plans to change next week's MSPAP test schedule."

The doomsday predictions about Monday have been gaining attention in the two weeks afterthe deadly school shooting in Littleton, Colo., on April 20. Since then, local schools have dealt with many reports of potential attacks, repeated bomb threats and evacuations, and students who are staying home from school because of their fears.

Three freshmen at Glen Burnie High School were charged last week with building bombs after several students notified school officials.

"Let's just say we're not taking any of this lightly," Lawson said.

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