Mom Warns About Rumored Plans for School Shooting on Facebook -- & She's the One in Trouble

It shouldn't have to be said, but school shootings are serious business, and also a very real and very big problem in the United States. So, no, when one mom heard rumors about a possible shooting in her son's middle school, she shouldn't have posted to Facebook about it. But she also shouldn't have been convicted of a petty misdemeanor for creating a "public nuisance."


Here's what happened: In January, New Mexico mom Jeanette Garza Alvarez heard from her son that a few eighth graders were planning to bring guns to Sierra Middle School. 

She took her son seriously, but maybe not seriously enough: Instead of calling the school or the police, she posted a Facebook update about what she heard. 

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According to the NBC affiliate KRQE, this is what the post read:

Anyone else's kids go to Sierra? My son says some 8th graders are planning on bringing guns to school maybe Monday and have a shootout to see who's the first to die.

She added that the school made a special announcement to students about what they should do if there were guns on the campus (hide under desks, etc.).

Obviously, that's kind of concerning. There's no way to know whether the threats were serious or not, but regardless: All threats related to the safety of kids should be taken seriously. Always.

Word got around, and on the day of the rumored shootout, at least 160 students' parents kept their kids from school. That caused the police to cite Alvarez for creating a public nuisance, even though she says she only posted the message to gather more information about what might be going on.

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Though she was spared jail time and only fined $29, she'll still have a criminal record. So, according to the Washington Post, Alvarez's lawyer wants to appeal the conviction on the ground that it treads on her First Amendment rights, and based on the fact that there's no law requiring her to call the school with that kind of information.

It's a tricky choice: On the one hand, she didn't handle the situation in the best way, and people did panic unnecessarily. On the other, parents in the area must have been grateful for the warning -- if the threats had been true, 160 moms would have had their kids home safe instead of at school during a shooting.

This one's for the district courts to decide, but it's a decision that could potentially affect us all -- sometimes Facebook feels like a world that exists outside of the law, but we'll need more legal insight to figure out just how unlawful that feeling might be.


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