Jasmine Benjamin, a 17-year-old nursing student at Valdosta State University, was found dead on a couch in her dorm’s common study area on November 18, after having been deceased for up to 15 hours. No one reported her missing or even noticed that she was lying on the couch dead, despite no one seeing her alive since November 16. But friends and fellow students were quick to offer Jasmine's parents their condolences on Facebook, even though her parents had not been notified by the school or authorities of their daughter's death, which is now being treated as a homicide.
Valdosta State University’s standard procedure is to contact the police in the deceased student’s hometown and have the notification given in person to a student’s parents, which is the way it should be. The Gwinnett County Sheriff’s department notified Jasmine’s mother, Judith Brogdon, and stepfather, James Jackson, in person, but by the time notification arrived, the parents already knew via Facebook.
Can you imagine checking your Facebook page and seeing a rest in peace notification in your Timeline from one of your daughter’s schoolmates? As a mother myself, I can only imagine that it must have been shocking and horrific. Her parents were probably out of their minds with worry trying to reach someone, anyone at the university to check on their daughter.
I remember holiday weeks being a zoo at college; students coming and going all week long, depending on when their classes ended for the week. It was a constant trickle. It would be fairly easy for someone to go missing and not be noticed.
However, a gigantic ball has been dropped when there is enough lag time between discovering a dead body and notifying next of kin that strangers have enough time to learn of the tragedy and post about it, especially when the loved ones have no idea anything is even wrong. We live in a society where social media reigns supreme and people know things instantly, sometimes even before those involved know what’s going on.
Benjamin’s parents are distraught that they found out about their child’s death via Facebook and the lack of communication that they have had from the university and the authorities since. Who could blame them? No parent should ever have to find out about his or her child’s death -- and even worse, possible murder!!! -- in this impersonal and disrespectful way. Parents deserve to be notified by authorities before the general public and never in this macabre public manner.
Have you ever received important news on social media that you felt should have come in person?
Image via CBS Atlanta