About 25 percent of the 5,530 children in Gloucester County Public Schools were absent Friday after rumors circulated that students might possibly bring firearms to Gloucester High School that day. The Gloucester Sheriff’s Office stepped up its presence at local schools Friday in response to those rumors.
Gloucester Sheriff Darrell Warren said his office became aware of the rumors on Dec. 18 but was unable to substantiate them.
In light of the tragic shootings at a Connecticut elementary school the previous week, Warren said he and school division superintendent Ben Kiser decided to proceed with plans to put extra officers and additional safety measures in place at all county schools on Friday.
A school division employee reported about half of the GHS student population was absent Friday, and that absentee numbers were also high at Page Middle School, which is located on the GHS campus. School officials did not supply per school attendance data but assistant superintendent John Hutchinson said 1,452 students overall were absent Friday.
Hutchinson said the day went very smoothly for children who did attend school Friday. He said he visited seven of eight school campuses and it was "pretty much business as usual. There were holiday programs and kids singing. Parents were there for some of the programs or to have lunch with their kids. Everything I observed was good."
Hutchinson said the large number of absentees Friday was not entirely attributable to the rumors regarding guns at GHS. He said several students have been out recently with the flu, and some parents may have departed for the holidays prior to the beginning of the school division winter break.