The suicides of two young men lead to persistent rumors and "mass hysteria" about school safety in Black River Falls. School was in session Monday, despite rumors in the community about possible safety risks.
"If our investigation had turned up even a scintilla of fact, we probably would have counseled the schools superintendent not to hold school," says Black River Falls Police Chief Don Gilberg. "That's not the case." Gilberg says the rumors stem from a pair of apparently unrelated suicides of young men in the Black River Falls area. Gilberg says some students began a rumor that the two teens were on some sort of list, and that rumor took on a life of its own. "As the rumor grew it morphed. It was supposed to be the high school at first, then it morphed into the middle school and then into the grade school," the chief says. "I want to make it very clear that it was a rumor started by some kids at the school, and they didn't even do it maliciously."
School officials and law enforcement conducted an extensive investigation and believe the rumors are false, but Gilberg says the rumors have led to what he calls "mass hysteria" in the community. "We did have officers at the (high) school this morning, and we searched kids as they came into the school, and we used metal detectors. That was more of a peace of mind type of measure, rather than us expecting to find anything.