Seven times as many students as normal were absent yesterday at Liberty High in Eldersburg despite the presence of uniformed and plainclothes officers stationed at the Carroll County school amid rumors that warned of "Columbine-like violence" planned for June 6, 2006 - a date being linked to satanic references because it translates to 666.
On a typical day, about 3 percent to 7 percent of Liberty's students are absent, said Florence Oliver, principal of the nearly 1,200-student school.
Yesterday, 259 students - 21 percent - were absent, she said.
Carroll County officials also "increased police presence at the county's six other high schools yesterday to ease anxieties among parents, students and staff," and "planned to patrol middle schools sporadically." In addition, "students were prohibited from wearing trench coats for the rest of the school year."
Let me say that again:
STUDENTS WERE PROHIBITED FROM WEARING TRENCH COATS FOR THE REST OF THE SCHOOL YEAR.
The rumors took off after a student allegedly overheard two teens planning a massacre. The police duly investigated, and they concluded the fears were unfounded. The rumors didn't disappear, though, perhaps because of this:
Because students are scheduled to take exams this week, school officials agreed that any student too distressed to attend because of the rumors would be excused with a parent's note and allowed to make up the tests, Oliver said.