No circumstances surrounding South Florida had students in more of a panic than the events immediately following the shooting tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School last Wednesday that took the lives of 17 students and faculty members.
With all other Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) open, shaken and fearful students returned to class. Yet the rumors of copycat shootings and threats making the rounds on social media ensured that learning was nearly impossible for the remaining two days of the week. A false alarm at North Broward Preparatory School and chatter of arrests and threats at neighboring schools filled the halls of CCHS with tension, as screenshots and rumors were rapidly exchanged between students.
While reacting with fear and paranoia is common, reasonable and entirely understandable during an atrocity like this, it’s essential that students keep their heads on their shoulders and practice skepticism and caution while consuming information in the coming hours following a tragedy. By sharing unsubstantiated and unverified details with others, rumors of false occurrences spread quickly and can cause even more panic and hysteria.
Is it from somewhere reputable? Is it confirmed? Is it from a friend of a friend of a friend who is allegedly involved? What purpose does sharing this serve? Is it informational, or merely fear-mongering?
Instead of jumping to retweet the next post or sharing a screenshot, students should take the time to check out the source of information, see if any major news outlets have reported on it and think rationally about it before sharing it with others. Is it from somewhere reputable? Is it confirmed? Is it from a friend of a friend of a friend who is allegedly involved? What purpose does sharing this serve? Is it informational, or merely fear-mongering?
Not only does spreading rumors incite panic and chaos, but it can also single out innocent students accused of threats or similar offenses and turn them into a target. All it takes is for one post to gain traction calling out an individual without any semblance of proof, and it could permanently tarnish their reputation. Hearsay of multiple individuals arrested or taken in for questioning around several Broward County schools had other students on edge for the remainder of the week.
By sharing unsubstantiated and unverified details with others, rumors of false occurrences spread quickly and can cause even more panic and hysteria.
If something truly needs to be shared for the safety of students or faculty members, students should contact administration instead of allowing it to make the rounds on social media without adult intervention. In the event that it’s a real threat, sharing it amongst students will do little to prevent a real threat, whereas bringing it to law enforcement or administrators could.
False rumors and paranoia on the Thursday following the shooting resulted in a dismal attendance rate on Friday, as students concerned about the school’s capability to protect them from another attack opted to stay home. While CCHS students were at no point in danger, the hazards and consequences of spreading false information were made painfully clear by the events of the previous day.
For the most part, spreading unverified rumors accomplishes absolutely nothing but instilling fear in others and causing unnecessary panic where none should exist. It is irresponsible and immature, and high school students should know better. Going forward, CCHS students should strive to do better and act more responsibly during times of crises.
Photo by Casey Chapter