RENO, NV - On the Friday before Christmas break, allowing for early holiday travel departures, we might expect maybe 10 percent of the students to be absent.
Today that number was noticeably higher. We're told district wide attendance was about 76 percent.
The reason was no mystery. All week students had brought scary stories home. Rumors were flying that there was going to be violence on Friday.
Just days after the school shooting in Connecticut any such talk was going to be worrisome.
And the timing of the rumored violence was no fluke. It was the end of the Mayan calendar, supposedly the end of the world, a big topic among young people who'd seen the movies and TV programs and may have bought into the hype.
No families we talked with were buying into the Mayan calendar scenario, but the cold, frightening reality of the school shootings in Connecticut had had an impact on their confidence.
"I was worried about copy cats of what happened out there in Connecticut," says Bill Judson, who kept daughters, Carly and Carrington home.
"Until last Friday I was really into the mind set that it couldn't happen here," said Teri Watson, the mother of two, "and I don't believe that any longer."
Watson says it wasn't the identifiable threats out there than concerned her. "It's the threats we don't hear," the possibility of the silent plotting of some troubled mind out there.
Besides, her daughter Emily had heard some scary stuff at school.
"The kid sitting next to me started talking about bringing a gun to school," says Emily, "and it upset me a lot."
After long conversations and, in spite of her own worries, she left the decision to her two daughters.
Ten year old Grace, who had heard no frightening talk from fellow students and didn't want to miss special holiday events, went to school.
Emily, who on any other day looks forward to school, stayed home.
"I was thinking about Columbine and what happened last Friday," she says. "If there's a possibility of that happening and me having to be around that and not knowing what I would have done, I'd rather stay at home."
"When she says 'Mom, I don't feel comfortable going," says her mother, "I value that opinion and I say "OK, you don't have to go."
Neither family doubted the school district's efforts to keep their children safe. In fact, school police spent a lot of time this past week investigating the rumors and today augmented by officers from other local agencies, were a visible presence in local schools.
But it wasn't enough to allay their fears.
"I told the school police 'there's more schools out there to protect and so few of you guys, you're not able to cover everything, said Judson."
This was a very personal decision. One no one wanted to get wrong. For some today, it was better to play it safe.
"I want to make sure I have my kids the next day."