Our Take: Tackle the fake news

Pulse, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Christchurch in New Zealand. We have witnessed these shootings from far away. Although they increased our fear, they also helped us become aware.

And when these events hit home, we knew how to react.  

When a threat was made during spring break, the community reacted, and fast. As soon a student made references to a school shooting on his Instagram account posts that included images of weapons with captions threatening the school was found, students, parents and school staff flooded the principal and law enforcement officials with reports.

We received an immediate response from Seminole and Orange County police who took action by Baker-acting the student for 72 hours and closely monitoring him after being released, all which ensured the safety of the SCPS community.

This quick response only happened thanks to a watchful and proactive community. We followed the most important lesson: See something, say something. If we do not report a threat, the issue would continue, students would be fearful and a potential tragedy could strike.  

But, although watchfulness and proactivity are essential, it’s important to understand the difference between being safe and making a situation worse. Wanting people to be aware while providing them with credible facts that come from sources like law enforcement or administration is being proactive. But, spreading the crazy rumor you heard from your friend who got information from a Snapchat story is gossip.

With something that involves the whole school, being able to identify a fact versus a rumor is essential. It is already hard enough to get verified updates on such threats, especially during spring break or other holidays. Then, to pinpoint what is a fact and what is not becomes even more of a challenge.

Comments like “We are all going to die” or “He is going to shoot us all,” become jokes used to deal with the reality of the situation. Although making these harsh jokes can serve as a coping mechanism, the jokes still deteriorate the seriousness of the threat and even worse, causes students’ fears to grow. A joke to you might be what drives another student over the edge, causing them to have anxiety or a panic attack during the school day, or to go home for day.

Awareness and diligence will remain an essential asset to dealing with threats. But, we must understand how to deal with these situations and not make it worse. Remain watchful and report any unusual behavior, but before spreading rumors or making jokes, ask yourself, is it helping the situation?  If not, move on and wait for the facts.