(The following commentary first appeared last Wednesday on The Blackshear Times Facebook page following reports law enforcement was investigating alleged threats of a school shooting. It was viewed by more than 19,000 people in 24 hours.)
Okay, parents of Pierce County, it’s time to get off Facebook for a few minutes, pause and take a deep breath.
You are absolutely correct when you say rumors of possible danger to our children should be taken seriously.
You are also correct when you say you deserve to know the truth about what may be happening and what is being done to address any potential threat.
You have been and you will be.
School officials and local law enforcement work closely on such matters and have done so in recent days and many other times you may not have heard about.
Your notification may not have come to you as quickly as rumors, but — really — legitimate information never travels as fast as a rumor.
These two points cited are pretty much the only reasoned, accurate statements attributed to dozens, if not hundreds, of parents who have been flooding social media the past couple of days after rumors of an alleged plot to stage a school shooting here.
Friends: We are better than this.
The level of absurdity and immaturity that has been shown in dozens of social media rants is not only dismaying, it is downright embarrassing. Dozens of parents have been endlessly repeating unfounded rumors which have only added to unnecessary worry and chaos.
An important point to remember: the rumors you hear from a friend, or via social media are just that — rumors. They are not facts.
Another point to remember is: You very likely do not know as much information about the situation as do your school officials and our law enforcement. There is a reason for that: They are trained and given the direct responsibility to deal with such situations. Your Facebook “friend” — who you may not even know personally — will generally not be someone in a position to know the truth.
I’ve watched in amazement as local parents have wasted their time debating someone from a faraway location who chimed in to promote the totally insane notion that 17 children were not killed in Parkland, Florida a few days ago. This nut case argues that the entire story is a conspiracy involving ALL of the national media outlets and government. So relax, says this idiot. There’s nothing to fear because none of the school shootings ever really happened.
And you, Pierce County parents, are wasting time debating this nonsense on social media with a lunatic rather than doing something constructive with your energy?
Please. We are better than this.
There is no end to the lies and lunacy that spread like wildfire on social media.
The sad part is that this happens because too many normal, clear-thinking people like many of you don’t stop to do the very thing you caution your children to do at an early age:
Stop. Look. Listen.
Stop: don’t get swept away in fits of hysteria. Look: Check other trusted, more reliable, sources before you spread information. Listen: we all have a voice inside our heads that begs us not to react too quickly, to be careful, to use good judgment. Listen to that voice.
Local law enforcement has been working around the clock since Monday night when this rumor began circulating.
The detective leading the investigation regarding the threats at PCHS has a high school student he sent to school this morning without concern and intends to send that child to school Thursday. In fact, the officers in local law enforcement have kids at every school in Pierce County, too.
None of us is guaranteed tomorrow. Danger is always a possibility. Fortunately, we live in a small community where strangers are few and unstable individuals are, usually, known. Local school officials and law enforcement are — every day — not just when rumors abound, doing their best to keep our children safe.
Don’t continue to let panic or gullibility make situations worse.
• Robert M. Williams, Jr. is Editor & Publisher of The Blackshear Times. Email: email@example.com.