HAVERHILL — What school officials are calling a "confusing snowball of a rumor" about a threat of school-related violence triggered a police presence at Hunking Middle School on Friday to ease any student and parent concerns, Superintendent Margaret Marotta said.

Hunking Principal Shannon Gilligan said an unspecified "incident" took place earlier in the week to first bring Haverhill police to the South Main Street school in the city's Bradford section. As a result, officers planned to return Friday out of an abundance of caution, Gilligan said.

"There was no real threat and no one was in danger, but there was a perceived threat,'' Gilligan wrote in an email to families. "The majority of students were completely unaffected and will likely know nothing about the incident.''

During Thursday's School Committee meeting, Marotta clarified that the incident Gilligan referenced was brought to the attention of school officials by alert students who sensed something wasn't right.

"Several students came to leadership at the Hunking School with some stories, concerns and rumors that there may be violence at the Hunking School," Marotta said. "The rumors were conflicting and we couldn't put them together and they didn't make a lot of sense. They (students who reported the rumors) did the right thing and we applaud them for that. We don't ask them to fact-check what they're telling us. We just ask them to tell us."

Marotta said police looked into the information supplied by the students and it was deemed to be a "series of rumors that had mushroomed amongst the kids."

Gilligan followed up with a message to families again Friday morning assuring the school community that student safety is paramount.

"I want to assure you that safety is our top priority and I am confident that all of our students are safe at school," she said, adding that the police investigation determined a "baseless rumor was created and circulated within the community."

Classes were held as scheduled at Hunking on Friday.


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