Two CNY schools are left ‘to pick up the pieces’ after social media rumor spirals

CAMILLUS, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — West Genesee School District’s superintendent, David Bills, had to address the community following an overnight social media rumor that there was going to be a school shooter at West Genesee Intermediate School on Feb. 1.

The rumor alleged that a shooter would head to both West Genesee Intermediate School and Westhill. This spread panic throughout students from both districts, as they reposted the rumor all over social media.

Eventually, the Camillus Police Department, Geddes Police and Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department had to get involved to work to suppress the alleged threat.

“While the threat has been deemed non-credible, there will be some additional law enforcement presence at our buildings today,” Bills wrote in the statement. “We take all threats seriously and we fully support law enforcement efforts to identify and hold accountable the individual or individuals responsible for making these types of threats.”

As for Westhill, their superintendent Steve Dunham explained how social media bolsters the spread of misinformation, and how it has an “Incredibly disruptive impact on students, schools and communities.”

Dunham says that schools can’t monitor every social media platform 24/7 and handle the fallout of inappropriate posts without help from students and families.

“Schools are left to pick up the pieces, which is a burden that we have had dumped on us with little to no support,” he explained.

In 2024, more kids have access to the internet than ever before as they’re scrolling for hours outside of the school day.

“Everyone needs to be more engaged with what our students, particularly young adolescents, are doing on social media platforms. Much of what they are seeing and being exposed to is inappropriate, it’s certainly not age-appropriate, and we know it is harming their mental health,” said Dunham.

The Westhill superintendent is urging families to have a discussion with their children about how serious it is to make school threats.

“When we investigate these types of threats, students often claim that they were just joking or fooling around. Please reinforce with your children that there is no such thing as a joke involving the threat of mass violence,” said Dunham.

In Congress, there is an increase in applied pressure among social media companies over their lack of regulation amongst their younger viewers.

“Receptively, or what you take in from others, social media is very influential and just as often manipulating or misleading.  Always question if something is real – even when your eyes tell you otherwise, as is with the case of inappropriate use of artificial intelligence,” Bills wrote to NewsChannel 9.

Bills wants students and others alike to know the importance of when you “See something, say something.”

Both West Genesee and Westhill spoke on behalf of how they worked together alongside law enforcement to address the threat and handle the situation.

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