Rumors of scary clowns waiting to harm children are anything but funny business to many school leaders who have responded to floods of communication from parents concerned about the issue.
Schools in more than a dozen states have responded to such rumors over the past two weeks, with some even deciding to close in response.
School leaders say much of the hysteria is fueled by hoax threats spread on social media, and few have reported actual clown sightings.
In some cases, those reporting clown sightings to police or school officials are sincere but mistaken in what they’ve seen. And, in others, mischievous youths have contributed to the hysteria.
Schools in areas including Puyallup, Wash., and Flomaton, Ala., were placed on lockdown as leaders investigated threats of violence that included mentions of clowns. Those threats were later determined to be unsubstantiated.
Many schools responded to the rumors by issuing statements in an effort to calm fears and squelch the spread of clown threats online.
“We believe it is very important for you to monitor your child’s social-media accounts to make sure that they do not forward messages that have the effect of causing disruption and undue concern,” Moore, Okla., officials wrote in a message to parents.
And some districts, like New Haven, Conn., have responded to children’s fears by banning students from wearing clown costumes on Halloween.
A version of this article appeared in the October 12, 2016 edition of Education Week as Clown Threats Pose Bewildering Choices for School Officials