School is in normal session today at Flagler Palm Coast High School. The statement may be as superfluous as stating that the sun rose in the east and traffic is flowing both ways on State Road 100. But it was made necessary by the latest viral chatter on social media, font of cynical disinformation, that FPC today would be the target of a violent incident.
One such claim alleged there’d be a shooting and a teacher would be held hostage. The claim, spread online, mirrors similar claims that now appear with regularity, almost all of them baseless pranks, across the country. Almost, because the year has also seen more school shootings than recent years. Education Week’s tracker reports 24 school shootings resulting in 36 injured and six killed this year. The number of shooting incidents equals those of the totality for 2018 and 2019 each. There was a drop-off to 10 in 2020 due to Covid’s school closures.
Still, school campuses remain among the safer places, if not the safest, in the country (homes are the province of child abuse and gun violence far more than schools). But in the wake of mass shootings, law enforcement and school officials can’t take chances, even with social media chatter.
“It’s a huge cost to taxpayers, it’s a huge impact to the teaching environment and to law enforcement,” Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly told WESH 2’s Claire Metz only yesterday. He was referring to the incident earlier this week at Rymfire Elementary, where the same 11-year-old child who’d called 911 seven weeks before to claim that there’d been a shooting there did so again, requiring an overwhelming response from paramedics and deputies. “We still have to respond with massive resources, not just the sheriff’s office but firefighters, paramedics.”
Thursday the Sheriff’s Office posted a brief note on its Facebook page, that it was “aware of the social media activity involving FPC and we are investigating the allegations. There will be extra patrol at the school tomorrow.” (Around 8:40 this morning, the school’s entrance and front parking lot looked as placid as on any other day.)
Assuming parents picked up the phone this morning when they saw FPC calling–the principal there, Greg Schwartz, has copiously used robocalls, intended to be for emergency or high-priority announcements only, routinely to relay athletic schedules that more properly belong on morning announcement at school, for many lessening the urgency to pick up–they’d have heard Schwartz put the alarm in context.
“A troubling social media trend seen across the country in the last couple of weeks seems to have spread to Flagler Schools,” Schwartz said. “The problem begins with someone sharing a generic threat of violence on social media. Someone has created a similar post insinuating something will happen on the Flagler Palm Coast High School campus. Local law enforcement was notified and they’re investigating. What other law enforcement departments across the country have discovered is that this social media trend is to disrupt the school day for as many schools as possible, That said, Flagler Schools takes these matters seriously and immediately partners with our local law enforcement partners to increase security at relevant sites and thoroughly investigate possible threats. Flagler Schools has emergency procedures in place, including a notification system.”
Schwartz still encouraged anyone who learns about a possible threat to notify local law enforcement, school staff or the state’s online reporting system. , a Flagler Schools administrator, or submit a report through our “See Something, Say Something” Top Line, or through the Fortify FL app. Both can be accessed through the homepage of the district website, www.flaglerschools.com
Schwartz’s statement itself mirrored similar advisories, such as one issued this week by a sheriff’s office in a New York State county for the same reasons. There, the “number of students and administrators targeted but the dates of the attack keep changing.” No local credibility of a threat was found there. The district issued a statement closely echoing Schwartz’s.