It was just another typical Wednesday morning for Mark. He was engrossed in his work, when suddenly a message notification popped up on his phone, shattering his concentration. The message was from his son’s school and it was alarming – an active threat had been reported.
Mark was not alone in his panic; other parents were equally anxious, as several Swatting incidents had occurred in the Tennessee area. To make matters worse, on the same day, the police received a tip-off that a shot had been fired at Brainerd High School.
The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office quickly sprang into action, conducting a thorough investigation to determine the legitimacy of the threat. After careful examination, it was ultimately deemed a false alarm, bringing a sense of relief to the shaken community.
In March of this year, 28 schools in Tennessee reported being victims of Swatting. Sadly, this number is rapidly increasing. On May 3rd, 8 additional schools, including Central High School, Jefferson County High School, West High School, Dobyns-Bennett High School, Science Hill High School, Roosieview Elementary, and Brainerd High School, fell victim to this crime.
Perpetrators make phone calls reporting active shooting incidents in schools, which causes the police to take immediate action.
However, upon investigation, the police find that these threats are fake.
The Educator’s School a nonprofit organization research shows more than 70% of all violent incidences were false reports of an active shooter.
The Reason Behind Swatting
The majority of the Swatting calls are generated by computers, which makes it difficult to track down the perpetrator.
New York Governor, Kathy Hochul said that in most cases the calls are originating in foreign lands.
Emmi Conley an extremism researcher who specializes in groups and people behind public displays of violence says the calls follow a strange pattern.
She added, “The scale and the timeline of the events are highly, highly unusual. The calls are consistent. They are coordinated. They are grouped state-by-state and district-by-district, and they’re also sustained. So somebody is putting significant effort to keep these going.”
Charles T. Canady, a Justice of the Florida Supreme Court, believes that someone may be trying to test American systems and gauge the response.
Many also suspect that the main aim behind these excessive Swatting cases is to spread fear in communities. While the reason behind them is unclear, the aftermath of these hoax calls is similar to that of actual shooting incidents.
How It is affecting students mental health?
The impact of Swatting on students’ mental health cannot be overstated. John vividly recalled the sense of panic that overtook his classroom during a code-red lockdown. The fear and uncertainty were so intense that breaking windows to escape seemed like a viable option.
Ananya Vinay, a high school student, found herself in a terrifying situation during an English class. The sudden announcement of a lockdown left her and her classmates in the dark about what was happening, and even the teacher was clueless. The confusion and fear caused a sense of panic to grip Ananya, which continued to linger even after the confirmation that it was a false alarm.
The effects of these incidents are not limited to students and teachers; parents and the wider community are also affected. Dr. Andrea Zorbas, a clinical psychologist, explains that fear and anxiety can linger long after the threat is over.
Here are three ways in which Swatting is affecting kids.
1. Increased negative emotions
Dr. Jeremiah Dickerson, a psychiatrist with the University of Vermont Medical Center said, “ stressful situations like school threats and lockdowns can leave lasting impressions on children and teachers, impacting their emotional, behavioral, and even physical health.”
He then added, “Folks who experience longitudinal stress It can affect them physiologically, it can affect their emotional behavioral health, it can affect their physical health in a lot of different ways.”
The psychological impact of hoax calls can vary depending on the nature of the call and the vulnerability of the individual. In the worst-case scenario, kids might develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), such as flashbacks, nightmares, and difficulty sleeping.
2. Creates a sense of insecurity
It can also lead to a sense of mistrust. Students may feel like they are not safe in their environment, especially when the calls threaten active violence or harm. This can cause students to constantly feel on edge and may lead to isolation and withdrawal from social situations, ultimately resulting in feelings of loneliness and depression.
3. Loss of self-esteem
The sense of powerlessness in these situations can adversely affect students’ confidence levels. This is dangerous for their academics as well as their personal lives.
How can schools reduce mental distress among students during these situations?
In these situations, teachers and school counselors need to use different strategies to ensure students’ emotional well-being. Here are some suggestions.
1. Show empathy and listen to their concerns
The code red lockdown has taken a toll on the mental health of many students. They need support and understanding. Make sure to provide kids with opportunities to have one-on-one conversations when necessary.
If you notice that something is bothering them, try to reconnect and discuss the issues. If you feel that the problem is serious, seek help from school counselors and follow child safeguarding systems.
2. Educate Students
Schools can educate their students about Swatting and teach them how to handle such situations. This can include proper training on what to do when they receive a fake social media post or hoax call, whom to report to, and how to keep themselves safe.
3. Implement an effective SEL program
SEL, or social and emotional learning, is the process of acquiring and applying skills to manage emotions, achieve goals, show empathy, build positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.
TomoClub’s monthly SEL curriculum improves leadership, emotional intelligence, and innovative skills, while our customization plan allows schools to focus on specific skill sets. With weekly progress tracking, we ensure student growth. Book a call to see our game-based curriculum in action or attend our free Play & Learn event.
4. Check on students
Before beginning a new academic chapter, it’s important to check in with everyone and see how they’re doing. You can ask questions like “How are you feeling today?” or “How was your weekend?” to open up the conversation. It’s also a good idea to give students breaks so they can reconnect with their peers.
5. Providing Counselling Services
Getting counseling is crucial during this stage, especially for students who may be dealing with PTSD or other mental health-related issues. Students can receive support through individual or group counseling sessions and can also utilize resources to help them cope with stress and anxiety.
6. Make the classroom environment supporting and welcoming
Encouraging students to watch out for each other and report any suspicious activities can foster a sense of community and belonging, which in turn can help them feel safe and supported.
7. Involve parents and guardians
Schools can involve parents and guardians in efforts to reduce mental distress among students. This can include providing information on how to recognize signs of stress or anxiety in their children and open communication between parents, teachers, and counselors.
False threats made to schools have resulted in multiple lockdowns, evacuations, and an overall sense of fear and anxiety within school communities. The impact of these hoax calls on mental health cannot be ignored, as they continue to cause trauma long after the threat has been deemed fake. Furthermore, the fear is compounded by the potential for a real emergency in the future, and the worry that an overburdened response system may not be able to handle it efficiently.
Students, teachers, and parents must work together to create a safe and supportive community that is vigilant against suspicious activity and can respond to any potential threats effectively. Increased awareness, education, and communication can help prevent future Swatting incidents, as well as provide support for those affected by them. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that schools remain a safe and secure environment for all students to learn and grow.