A Lexington middle school principal on Friday told students not to spread false rumors of violence on social media after information shared on Snapchat caused fear and anxiety.
There is an epidemic of spreading false information, according to Edythe J. Hayes Middle School Principal Dave Hoskins. Hoskins wrote to students and parents on Thursday and Friday, after fears of threats on social media put people on edge and required investigation.
Hayes middle students and their parents were absorbing the information against a backdrop of threats, some that resulted in arrests, made elsewhere in the country since Wednesday’s school shooting in Florida left 17 dead. A recent university study found about 30 percent of mass killings can be traced back to mass killings from the prior 13 days because people at-risk of committing the crimes are influenced by the news of them.
Similarly, schools statewide dealt with threats and innuendo after a Jan. 23 shooting at Marshall County High School killed two and injured dozens in western Kentucky. Some students were charged with falsely reporting an incident.
Three students in Lincoln County face discipline after a threat there, WKYT reported Friday. Lincoln County High School principal Mike Godbey said there was extra security at the school because of the threat, which was written in a bathroom and followed by rumor. The school planned to provide additional security when it hosted basketball games Friday night, the station said. All students and staff are safe, the district said on its website.
At Edythe J. Hayes, principal Hoskins told families, “Unfortunately, one of the things that always happens in the days following a tragedy like this, schools across the nation see an increase in unfounded rumors of copycat threats.”
At least two separate Snapchat messages circulated among students alleging threats of violence at school Friday, Hoskins said. Those were investigated by the school’s administration and school district police. “I want to assure all of our families that this rumor is completely untrue and baseless.”
In a second message Friday morning, Hoskins again said a Snapchat post alleged a threat of violence had been made, but it was untrue. “After investigating the allegations, talking to parents and students, no threat was ever made. No student was suspended for having a weapon at school, and no weapons were ever confiscated yesterday, as has been alleged.
“I want to take this moment, however, to address not the epidemic of school violence, but the epidemic of spreading false information,” Hoskins said. “Social media has become an everyday tool in our lives. We use it to stay connected with friends, digest media, and keep up with current events. Unfortunately, for all of the positive aspects of social media, there are also dangerous consequences for its misuse.
“This is a prime example of those consequences. Far too often we have to deal with students hearing rumor and innuendo and taking it as fact. In most cases, students never seek to confirm the validity of the rumors. These issues then take a life of their own on social media, and we deal with verbal conflicts, fights, and now false threats of violence.
“The proper course of action to take is not to post accusations on social media. The responsible course of action is to seek the truth. In a case like last night, alert an adult, so the adult can take action. Placing these claims on social media do nothing but cause undo anxiety and cause undo conflict.”
Hoskins thanked students who made school officials aware of the Snapchat post.
“The lesson from this is easy,” he said. “Think before you speak. Think before you act. Make sure you have all of the facts before you get involved.”