Unprepared for online threats

Maceo Inoue, Staff writer

“I want everyone to stay calm before hearing this, and just know that none of this is confirmed yet,” our adviser Mr. Vo told us in our second period journalism class on a Wednesday morning in October. The intercom had just announced that students should shelter in place due to a potential shooting threat towards Branham on Snapchat.

The threat to Branham in October was just one of many school shooting threats nationally in October on social media. News stories from Detroit to Florida showed screen shots similar to what was later shared through our Instagram and Snapchat pages. We were the first in San Jose to have intercepted this vague threat.

Nithila Vasant/Special to the Bear Witness

Though police determined that the social media threat lacked credibility, there was still a hint of fear of the worst. While Branham staff acted according to what administrators knew about the threat, assistant principals telling students to hurry to class was the only visible precaution.

Even during the middle of fourth period, right when the shooting was supposed to occur, students were allowed to go out and use the bathroom, instead of being in a complete lockdown.

The cavalier attitude toward this threat, versions of which have gone viral nationwide, points to Branham’s lack of precautions to take care of these types of threats. More threats over social media are bound to happen, whether the school is able to address them or not.

Yet the October threat was followed with a similar threat in December, where the TikTok trend “National Shoot Up Your School Day” swept the nation and had many parents and school officials worrying for students’ safety. The warnings spread throughout the hashtag “december17th2021,” amassing 1 million views.

While Branham did not shut down on that day, many schools across the nation, including Gilroy Unified School District and Greenfield High School in the Bay Area. The threat was found to be not credible.

School shootings remain prevalent. Among the 34 school shootings in 2021, the Nov. 26 school shooting at the nearby Westmont injured two men during a CCS football championship game hit close to home. And the late-December shooting outside Oakridge Mall, just 1.25 miles away, is a reminder that the Bay Area is not immune to these dangers.

School shooting threats on social media should not be normalized – instead it should prompt a reform social media TikTok culture, along with changing the desensitization many may feel towards the threats to a motivation for activism on school safety. The lack of visible precautions for both threats prompt a need for Branham administrators to reevaluate their approaches towards keeping students, teachers, and staff safe.

Schools should work to help students with their relationship with social media and create better protocols for dangerous situations. Creating systems to better support the mental health of students against the repercussions of social media threats, and working together to prevent the occurrence of dangerous threats are needed to support the safety of students.