Local Gossip Muddies the Water During MCHS Lockdown


Outside of Door 4 at MCHS

Zoe Bullock, Staff Reporter

With the recent lockdown at the Madison Consolidated School District, the community exploded with theories of what really happened in real-time Tuesday morning. Parents, students, and community members spent the entire day explaining the situation in their own words. However, what started as spreading critical information at a time of need quickly became an endless spiral of rumors and gossip. Ultimately, much of the gossip spread by many community members became a hindrance and intrusive for local law enforcement, parents, and students.

Groups such as the “Local Gossip” group on Facebook quickly fed into this drama as soon as the situation started. Several posts claimed such things as an active threat inside of the building at the time. Others took to the internet to blame students for the incident by name. One user claimed, “Last I heard anything, there was a student who had a handgun at the high-school (sic).” Others argued, “Pretty sad! The government school system controls your children. Then you have to be scared there (sic) going to get shot and die. Take your children out of the schools. Teach them the truth!”

Though groups such as this were created to share information and ask for help throughout the community, the rumors spread lies and created panic. 

An empty hallway at MCHS (Mallory Castor)

To prevent this, Sergeant Adam Bullock with the Indiana State Police stated that in emergencies, the public should “wait to hear from law enforcement and/or the school systems on how to proceed. We realize that parents are scared and want to know that their children are okay; however, the priority of the LE (law enforcement) and the schools are to make sure the students are safe and the “threat” is neutralized. The second priority would be caring for any injured persons, and the third would be communicating with the public.”

Contrary to helping the public learn the truth about such events, spreading rumors and gossip can escalate the situation. The panic may create a mob mentality reminiscent of the famous play, The Crucible. The problematic situation may intensify when panic and emotions take over in emergencies. Many researchers, such as the professionals at the University of Miami, have explained that people tend to lose specific emotional cues when a part of mob mentality. Many lose critical thinking skills and turn to violence and panic instead.

In this particular situation, the mob mentality of “Local Gossip” led many to place blame on several local minors by name. Questionable ethics of naming minors online aside, it is extremely dangerous for everyone involved. Not only is this detrimental to the reputation and mental health of the individual being blamed, but this also affects the ongoing investigation by law enforcement. Due to the panic and mob mentality of the situation, adults began to blame minors. People who these minors should be able to turn to for comfort began to attack their mental health and individual character. This behavior could alter people for the rest of their lives. Even digital and anonymous comments affect those in public, especially children.

Bullock explained, “It is each person’s individual responsibility to discern the accuracy of the source they are getting their information from. With the overabundance of gossip and information, I would treat all information as if it was untrue unless it comes from a trusted source.”

When put in an emergent situation such as Tuesday’s, it is essential to remember to stop, calm yourself down, and critically think about the situation at hand before making a post online. 

Bullock urges the public to “think about, discuss, train on how they would react in a crisis. Not only this specific situation but in any “crisis” situation. The more you train and plan for these situations, the better you will react when these situations arise. Regarding a situation at the schools, the public should wait to hear from the school and/or law enforcement. Neither entity will intentionally mislead the public and will always have the safety of the students and faculty as the top priority.”