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.
Time for a different approach says
Maybe the students such as the one at Rymfire repeatedly making these false threats should be made to do community service, you know give them actual consequences for their actions that has resulted in disruption to others learning, emergency responders, time, money etc so that these instances will decrease. The slaps on the wrist do not work however neither do charges so community service, loss of cell phone and internet as well as the parent having to pay a fine or perform the community service along side their student would be beneficial to all as well as teach these kids their behavior is unnacceptable, will not be tolerated and will have consequences.
Deborah Coffey says
We shouldn’t be held hostage by these “pranks.” They endanger everyone, including innocent people in need of help. It’s probably time to send the perpetrators AND their parents to prison. Total accountability, much more than a slap on the wrist, is called for in these cases. This country has had all the chaos is can stand over the past five years.
This talk is about consequences – after the fact! This has been going on since the days of ‘bomb scares’. What has to stop is the ideological, inhumane destruction of the right to life.
Unfortunately, we have developed over the decades parents who grew up in a similar environment. It’s now a way of life.
We need to re-establish the ‘do unto others . . . ‘ and the value of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and finally the values regarding human life.
Why wouldn’t the FCSO’s first response be a phone call to the school. The situation could be verified much quicker than sending LEO’S and Firef8ghters. If no shooting occurred and was confirmed as such then Dectectives take over to catch the offender. Sending half the staff on prank calls just results in dozens of Deputies standing around for hours on end racking up overtime.
Concerned Citizen says
Because there is no actual way to verify that the person on the end of the phone wouldn’t be coerced.
I’ve participated in active shooter exercises and a lot goes on. Unfortunately you have to respond. And you go in hot because you just don’t know. As far as the over time goes I’m sure you have a valid concern. But when it comes to our children’s safety I’d rather know they are Ok.
Is this the norm?
Concerned Citizen says
Social media has allowed a whole generation of keyboard warriors. Coupled with the fact that parents either don’t care what their kids do on the internet. Or are just to busy to parent properly kids run around unchecked.
Kids think this is funny for some reason. What they don’t realize is that it causes these resources to be pulled from somewhere else. And tied up until the scene is cleared. It also causes undue stress for school staff and our first responders. If criminal charges aren’t a deterrent then perhaps more severe financial penalties and mandated community service with parental involvement is the key.
Start getting these parents involved more. Start taking up their time so they see what their kids are doing.