RALEIGH — It's the last day of classes at many area schools, and there was some worry that many students would be absent. Their parents considered keeping them home after rumors of a shooting spread through at least three different schools.
The principal at Raleigh's Carnage Middle School just days ago sent a letter home to parents informing them of a rumor that was circulating among students. The story was that violence would erupt on the last day of school in the form of an ambush-style shooting.
The principal was quick to assure parents that it was just a rumor, but many parents and students were fearful of an incident similar to those which have occurred in other parts of the country. He offered parents the option of keeping their children out of school Friday if they didn't feel it was safe.
About 300 families did just that, although there is no indication of how many of those absences were related to the letter.
"A few kids from our school were going to bring guns to school on the last day and one of them was going to pull the fire drill and then start shooting," said Carnage student Taylor Uzzell.
That story was enough to keep Taylor home from school on the last day of her sixth-grade year. Rumors that school violence might erupt took on a life of their own.
"I was like, oh my gosh, this has happened in other states, and I was like scared and I didn't want to go to school," Taylor said.
Taylor's mother said she was also very frightened.
Harnett Central High School is another of the schools that experienced such rumors. Deputies and a canine unit were posted on campus to ensure that the final day of school there was uneventful. School administrators requested an extra security presence, so four deputies were assigned to work with the school's resource officer.
Rumors of violence there led to a flurry of phone calls to the school from concerned parents.
Harnett Central Principal Ron Wilson said the rumors were unsubstantiated, and that increased security is standard on the last day of school.
"These rumors themselves have caused people to become worried because of what has happened nationwide, shall we say?" Wilson said. "Most of them have gone away fairly comfortable with what I've done."
Harnett Central seniors had the day off from school Friday, but most other students did show up. Wilson says attendance did not drop in spite of the rumors, although students were not allowed to bring book bags Friday, as an extra security precaution. Deputies searched any bags that were brought in.
Many students didn't have much choice about attending classes. They had exams and other final tests to finish up.