Rumors of violence prompt JeffCo schools to close Friday

Supt. says step taken despite no 'credible threats' found

POSTED: 4:43 PM PST December 20, 2012    UPDATED: 11:02 PM PST December 20, 2012 
MADRAS, Ore. -

Parents and students reacted Thursday night after the Jefferson County School District announced all schools would be closed Friday. The closure comes after threats surfaced on social networks.

Jolene Pumpelly learned the news when she picked her son up from school Thursday afternoon.

"He said, 'Mom there is no Christmas concert tonight and they've cancelled school tomorrow.'" said Pumpelly. "He said that there were some kids who had hit lists for bullies, and since tomorrow was going to be the end of the world , they were going to go get these bullies."

With rumors and fears like that surfacing, the call to close the schools was made. Students were told of the closure during their afternoon announcements and a letter was posted to the district's website.

In the letter, the district wrote "Madras and Warm Springs and have found no credible threats to our schools. However, these rumors have created a significant interruption to our schools and will make it difficult to have an appropriate educational setting on Friday."

"Everyone was worried about it, because they didn't know if it was going to happen or not," said Victoria Messinger, a student at Jefferson County Middle School

"If these rumors are true, it's good that they took these extra precautions," said student Tera Messinger. "It's better safe than sorry."

The district says they will be working with police Friday to reconfirm their current safety procedures. For the time being, the doors are locked until after the first of the year.

Here is the full announcement as posted on the school district's Website to "students, parents, families and staff":

All Jefferson County School District schools will be closed this Friday, December 21st, 2012 and a 2-hour late start will be held on Monday, January 7, 2013.

I know there have been a number of recent rumors about student safety. I want to assure our students, families and staff that your district has been working closely with local law enforcement in Madras and Warm Springs and have found no credible threats to our schools. However, these rumors have created a significant interruption to our schools and will make it difficult to have an appropriate educational setting on Friday, December 21, 2012.

With that said, I also feel it’s important to acknowledge the heightened sense of concern our community is experiencing in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy. As a result, this school closure will allow students, staff and families some added peace-of-mind during this difficult time.

Furthermore, this school closure will allow our district-wide safety team to focus on a careful review of our current school safety plans.

Our District support staff will be working with local law and fire departments this Friday, December 21, 2012 to reconfirm our current safety procedures and make adjustments over the break where we find opportunities to make our schools safer for students and staff.

School will start again on January 7th with a two-hour late start. We will spend that morning updating teachers and staff on new and existing safety protocols and be prepared to work with students to ensure everyone knows safety is a priority and students will be safe in our schools.

Thank you for your support and cooperation. We wish you all a safe and peaceful holiday season.

Warm Wishes,
Rick Molitor