Boston Latin School headmaster Lynne Mooney Teta issued a notice to parents and students yesterday quashing rumors of vampires at the school. An odd move for the head of a historic elite preparatory school, but Teta and Boston public school officials declined to elaborate on what triggered the unusual message.
They did, however, adamantly offer assurances that no one at the school has been hurt, arrested - or bitten.
"The headmaster believes that the outrageous rumors had reached a point where she had to say something to families to ensure that all students felt safe and respected," said Chris Horan, School Department spokesman.
While the episode sounds like something out of "Twilight," last year's hit film about a high school girl who falls in love with a vampire, it may be closer to the movie "Mean Girls."
Two law enforcement officials with knowledge of the incident said a group of girls at the school had been bullying at least one other student who likes to dress in Goth-style, a vampirish look popularized by musician Marilyn Manson. The officials said the girls began spreading a rumor that the student was a vampire who had cut someone's neck and sucked the blood.
When Boston police went to the school Wednesday on an unrelated matter, their presence fueled yet another rumor: that a vampire was being arrested, according to one of the law enforcement sources.
Several students and parents of students said police officers were posted at the school's main entrance Wednesday but it was unclear why.
Eddy Chrispin, Boston Police Department spokesman, said police spoke with several students at the school Wednesday "to quell the rumor" of vampires.
"The whole thing kind of took on a life of its own," Chrispin said.
The officers determined that the situation was an internal school matter.
Horan said in reference to the rumors that when you've got "an $800 million budget and 212 layoffs, this is not really a priority."
Teta issued her notice to parents in an e-mail sent yesterday at 8 a.m.
"It has come to my attention that rumors involving 'vampires' began spreading through the building yesterday," it said.
"I am very concerned that the safety of certain students may be jeopardized as targets of rumors and speculation," she wrote. "Please alert any adult in the building if you feel that any student is being harassed or targeted."
Teta denied requests for an interview yesterday, referring all questions to the School Department spokesman. But the memo appeared to raise new questions and rounds of speculation.
One student who contacted the Globe said a male student, rumored to be a werewolf, had threatened on Facebook to bring a gun to school because he was being harassed. Other students at the school yesterday said they had heard that a student had been bitten.
John Maguire, who was picking up his 13-year-old at the school yesterday afternoon, said he didn't know there was an issue about vampire rumors until his son told him yesterday. He said he laughed it off.
"C'mon, a vampire in the school? Don't you think that's a little woo-hoo?" he said, pointing to his head.
Yet images of vampires are common in books, television programs, and movies, from "Twilight," the book series by Stephenie Meyer, to HBO's "True Blood." Susanne Toomajian, president of the Massachusetts School Psychologists Association, said middle school students might be drawn to romanticized vampire images in films like "Twilight" because they depict an outsider who finds love. But the issue is more about acceptance.
That's something "that early adolescents struggle with," she said. "The vampire themes are really ancillary to other themes of fitting in."
Students leaving Boston Latin yesterday said rumors about students claiming to be vampires, or more specifically "half-vampires," have been circulating for months. Several said two or three female students at the school carry umbrellas in all weather to avoid exposure to the sun.
Myles Friedman, a junior, said that after police appeared at the school yesterday, the rumor mill kicked into full gear. "I've never heard any rumor spread so fast."
Some at the school yesterday said they believed a student had been bitten. No one had heard about a problem with bullying.
Seventeen-year-old Davis Murphy said he heard that some students claiming to be half-vampires were draining their blood to make their skin paler or had claimed they could fly.
"No one bullies them," he said, laughing. "We just want to know why they're vampires."
Victoria Browne, a senior, said many of the rumors are so outrageous they make older students laugh.
"[I] heard people were biting people, but that vampires only bite the willing," she said with a smile.
Browne, who has been involved with the school's antibullying campaign, said she had not heard any reports of bullying.
In recent years, public schools have attempted to crack down on bullying because of its link to teen depression and suicide. Boston Latin has taken steps to make sure all students feel comfortable, she said.
"There's no bullying here," Browne said. "It's just that everybody is really weirded out."