Six strange reasons for schools closing

Recent extreme weather conditions in some parts of the UK have forced schools to close because of flooding. Snow in the winter months remains another main culprit for closures.

But what other events cause schools to close other than the weather? Below we take a look at some of the bizarre reasons for school closures both at home and across the world.

Spiders

Several schools in London were forced to close in 2018 due to an infestation of venomous spiders. Steatoda nobilis, or false widow spiders, are one of the most dangerous spider species in the UK, and about the size of a 50p coin. They are capable of injecting venom with a bite, but thankfully without the severe consequences that can occur with their sister species, black widow spiders.

The arachnids are native to southern Europe as far east as Georgia, and are usually found in walls, fences and the bark of trees. Approach with caution and call pest control!

A false widow spider enjoys a bite to eat.

Laughter epidemic

This peculiar episode happened in 1962 in the African country of Tanganyika (modern day Tanzania). The incident began at a boarding school for girls; three students started laughing before it spread through the school, affecting nearly 60% of students.

The laughter lasted from a few hours to over two weeks in some instances, although the epidemic didn’t seem to affect any of the teaching staff. The school closed several weeks after the first cases but soon spread to a further 13 schools affecting around 1000 people.

The epidemic is an example of mass psychological illness (MPI) or what used to be called mass hysteria. Tanganyika had won its independence that same year, and sociologists and psychiatrists have argued that new social ideas clashing with conservative values helped contribute to the epidemic amongst young people.

Leopard sightings

Early in 2016, a reported leopard sighting around the Indian city of Bangalore led to the closure of 130 local schools. Prior to the sighting, one leopard had entered a school in the area, reportedly attacking six people before being tranquillised and transported to a local zoo.

India has a history of leopard attacks on humans. The animals are venturing more and more into populated areas as the size of their natural habitat decreases.

Two men try to trap the leopard that entered a school near Bangalore.

Sinkholes

In 2018, a school in County Monaghan, Ireland was forced to evacuate and close due to a sinkhole appearing in the grounds of a sports club next to the school. Shocked parents received a message from the school asking them to collect children as soon as possible 'due to the collapse of the Gypsum Mine' soon after dropping them off as normal in the morning. Thankfully no one was injured.

This sinkhole in Russia shows how deep they can go.

Solar eclipse

The solar eclipse on August 21, 2017 may not have been a great spectacle in the UK, but many people stateside got to witness a total solar eclipse. The path of totality – the narrow track along which a total eclipse can be viewed – spanned 14 states across the US.

Some schools across the country took it as a perfect opportunity for a live science lesson, donning special eclipse glasses and taking the classroom outside. However, the timing of the eclipse in some states prompted safety concerns for students leaving school, so they decided to close for the day.

Students observe the 2017 total eclipse in Missouri.

Bees

We’re all told that bees are our friend and won’t sting us unless they are under attack, but in extreme situations it’s hard not to feel under threat. Schools from East Sussex to as far away as Texas have been forced to close due to huge numbers of bees swarming close to schools, putting pupils at risk from possible allergic reactions and making it impossible to open windows.

Swarms occur when the queen of the hive leaves to start a new colony, followed by worker bees resulting in swarms that can contain tens of thousands of bees – not something you may want right outside your classroom window.

A hive of bees.
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