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Rumors stir concern at area schools

by Gail Marsh

STAFF WRITER

Rumors of trouble brewing abounded at two area high schools on Thursday, the first anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings.

State police and sheriff's deputies maintained a presence at both Braxton County High School in Sutton and Buckhannon-Upshur High School in Tennerton.

Both schools were closed on Friday for a scheduled holiday break.

According to Sgt. Rick Holley, the Sutton detachment commander of the West Virginia State Police, problems at the high school started as "a grain of sand that became Mount Everest."

"We had a student suspended for three days because of inappropriate computer use at the school. Somehow, out of that incident, rumors started circulating that there was a 'hit list' and all kinds of things," Holley said.

Parents were in and out of the school all day Thursday, asking questions and taking their children home, Holley said. He and other troopers ate lunch at the school Thursday to help bring some calm to the situation.

A television station heard about the rumors and sent a film crew up by helicopter. The helicopter landed on the school's football field, adding to the rumors, the trooper said.

"We could have saved them the time and money if they would have called the state police first. It was really a non-issue," he said.

In Upshur County, deputies spent most of Thursday at the county's lone high school and also the middle school after a rumor circulated that something would happen after lunch, a spokesperson at the Upshur County Sheriff's Department said.

"It seems that some kids were talking about Columbine, and rumors of threats started from that. It was Senior Skip Day, and I think some kids were just looking for a reason to stay home," the spokesperson said.

Staff writer Gail Marsh can be reached at 626-1447.

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