Are you ready for the strangest of all ironies? On the same day that suspended student, Robert Butler Jr., shot and killed his vice principal and also shot his principal in Nebraska, six girls were arrested in Nevada for inviting other students on Facebook to take part in “Attack a Teacher Day” at two middle schools in Reno. What a crazy and frightening world we teachers live in! Here are the sad details.
One of the girls who were arrested invited about 100 students to participate in this event which was scheduled for Friday, January 7. The other five responded with online threats targeting specific teachers. Eighteen students accepted the Facebook invitation to be part of the attack targeting different teachers which was scheduled to occur between 7:00 – 9:00 AM. A student who responded to the invitation used the word “die” before a teacher’s name, and some students wrote that they planned to attack certain teachers who they named online. According to the resource officer for the school district, Sheriff’s Deputy Jessica Rivera, no specific information was given as to how the attack was to take place.
Luckily a parent reported the posting to the authorities, and although the girls claimed that it was all a joke, Dan Sadler, Carson Middle School’s principal did not find it humorous, especially in light of the news reports out of Omaha, Nebraska regarding Butler’s shooting incident that very same day, and he was not alone. Rivera commented for huffingtonpost.com, “Even if the six girls meant it as a joke, there’s no way to know if the other students who accepted the invitation weren’t going to carry out the attacks in some fashion. The school shooting in Nebraska is just another thing that shows us you can’t take this kind of situation lightly.”
At school on Friday, students were told of the arrests of the six students after which, classes went on without interruption. The parents of those who had been arrested or whose children had accepted the invitation online were contacted by the police. And the parent of the student who had posted the original invitation on Facebook removed the invitation from the Internet.
The six girls who had been arrested were released to the custody of their parents and also were suspended for up to five days from their respective schools. This past Wednesday, they were booked at juvenile hall on a misdemeanor charge of communicating threats.
These are the facts, but what of the emotion? Imagine, if you will, the impact of such a threat on the teachers of these two schools, particularly those who were specifically named and targeted. Imagine their surprise and outrage that students who they labor to instruct, would turn on them in such a profound and disturbing manner. Imagine the fear, the doubt, and the distrust that such events create. Teachers who were interviewed expressed incredible surprise over the students who were involved; unlikely participants which makes it all the more disturbing. And imagine the emotion that the students of these schools must be feeling as well.
Such a frightening event which can’t help but leave teachers everywhere wondering, could our school be next? Could I be the next teacher targeted? It is extremely unsettling, and just one more incident that highlights the need for stricter control of the Internet as well as stiff consequences for those who misuse it.