Mayan Apocalypse Message Spurs Unfounded Rumors of Violence at RHS

A student making mention of the end of the world on Friday, Dec. 21 led to "non-credible" rumors that violence may take place on Friday at Ridgewood High School. Officials say there's no threat of danger.

One high schooler's online talk of the Mayan end of days caused village police and school officials to initiate an investigation to publicly dispel rumors that there could be violence at Ridgewood High School this Friday.

The high schooler had posted a message on Facebook that Dec. 21 would lead to the end of the world, according to Ridgewood Police Chief John Ward. Officials declined to offer specifics but Ward said investigations determined the student's musings were "fantasy based" and did not express "any direct threat" to students or the school.

The student's statements about the Mayan calendar circulated on other students' social media accounts, where rumors spread that violence – possibly a school shooting – would be coming to the school on Friday.

The joint investigation by police and school officials didn't quiet talk around the community, however, and school officials needed to go a step further.

"It was dealt with a couple days ago and the rumors kept on going and going," Ridgewood High School Principal Thomas Gorman told Patch on Wednesday. 

Rumors made the original message much worse, Gorman said, and the principal eventually decided to write a letter to parents to squash rising anxiety.

"The students are all safe here at school," he wrote to parents Wednesday. "To alleviate anxiety in light of last week's events, the police are maintaining a presence in all Ridgewood schools."

Tensions are high in towns across America following the Newtown, Conn. school shooting that left 20 students and eight others dead last Friday.

Ridgewood Superintendent Daniel Fishbein, speaking on the Sandy Hook shooting, said Monday that Ridgewood can't be "paralyzed by fear" and must return to normalcy.

"We need to keep a clear head and identify children at every level who have anxiety based on the events of the past week," Fishbein said. "We have to make sure the children see us as brave and strong and making sure...we can to bring some normalcy to a really unreal situation."

Police and school officials would not discuss any potential disciplinary action the student who wrote the message might face, as he's a juvenile.

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor James Kleimann at James.Kleimann@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox every morning, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Lauren Imbruglia December 20, 2012 at 01:33 AM
In the absence of information, misinformation rushes in. How about informing parents right at the get-go and letting us decide as INFORMED citizens as to whether the kid is really just 'joking' or not. Fantasy-based means not based in reality, right? Sounds scary enough to me.
James Kleimann December 20, 2012 at 01:48 AM
Both school and police officials said there were no direct threats made by the student in question. They told me they took the message in question – and subsequent rumors – very seriously but found it all to be baseless. If you have information to the contrary, you should absolutely contact the appropriate authorities.
Brian December 20, 2012 at 02:15 AM
I am very happy/proud to live in a community where police and school officials can react in a rational way to such incidents. It sounds like they calmly reviewed the available information, spoke with the individuals and reach a very reasonable conclusion. It is easier to have a knee jerk reaction then it is to do the right thing. The Mayan calendar thing is a huge pop culture phenomena including tv shows dedicated to wackos preparing for it. It is entirely understandable that a high school kid might be joking about that absurd 12/21 thing and be misunderstood in light of recent events. Thank you to all involved and keep up the great work.
RdgwdGRock December 20, 2012 at 04:34 AM
rumor of a rumor is a rumor believed by idiots
Graydon4ever December 21, 2012 at 12:08 AM
In the interest of public safety, I would rather err on the side of caution, and thoroughly flush this kid [and his irresponsible parents] out - especially in light of what has happened, its no joke to make comments about such violence. Certainly today and in this town, where parents routinely over-indulge their kids - their kid is perfect and "can do no wrong" - there is no locale where this cannot happen. I'm not willing to risk my kid's safety because some ACLU drone wants to protect the rights of future psychos - what about the rights of those victims in CT?


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