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The Alleged School Shooting Threat that Turned into a Day Off

On a very mundane Sunday evening, most students in Georgia got a message from at least one of their friends that went something along the lines of: “Don’t go to school tomorrow! There’s a city-wide school shooting planned! Tell ALL of your friends IMMEDIATELY!” And most people listened - That’s how the biggest prank of this academic year was executed.

On April 21st, Telegram screenshots attributed to an unknown Russian “terrorist” group were spread all around Tbilisi, including our school. The screenshots were filled with pictures of weapons, graphic messages describing how the Russian terrorists planned to attack Georgian teachers and students, and lists of schools that were supposed to be subjected to the school shooting. And no, this wasn’t something that was dismissed as just being an empty threat - the State Security Service got involved. A bomb disposal squad searched through entire campuses and some schools even canceled classes for the day.

Although our school wasn’t on any of the lists spread through Telegram, most people decided not to risk it. But some students still came to school. These are some of their experiences:

Tasi Zuroshvili, 11th grade:

“I heard about the shooting from my schoolmate as she was warning me to skip school the next day. She sent me and some of my other classmates screenshots of people talking about the shooting. At first, I was very concerned and worried, but as I asked my other friends and my family members, they assured me that it was all fake, so I went to school the next day. The school was almost empty as the majority of the students stayed home.

I actually really enjoyed being with only a couple of students in each class on this day. There was less chaos during the lessons and we had the opportunity to either go to Lisi Lake or just talk with each other, instead of conducting an actual lesson. It was a nice, fun, quiet day.”

Sopho Tatarashvili, 11th grade:

“At first, I didn't know what was going on. I only heard about everything the morning when I had already gotten ready. One of my friends sent the information to me – she was worried and asked me if I was going to school. It was already too late for me to stay home, and I didn't really believe it as there was no official information about it in the news or on TV, so I thought that it was fake. In the morning we were all hoping that people wouldn't come so we wouldn't have serious lessons, and many students were in fact missing. Later some students called their parents and left but when I told my mom she was just making jokes as she didn't take it seriously either. During the lessons there were very few of us, we talked and watched movies. But while there were just four of us in math class, we still conducted a full lesson and I was a little disappointed. In general, it was a fun day and a really strange experience.”

As for those who stayed home, the experience wasn’t any less pleasant.

Anastasia Gogiashvili, 9th grade:

“I was really scared to come to school and my parents were really worried as we weren’t certain about the situation. There was really no way of knowing how things would go for sure, though, it was nice to miss one day of school. Being at home felt amazing, but I was worried about the safety of my classmates and everybody at school. I’m glad everything turned out okay in the end.”

Although everyone seemed to have fun on this day, some eating Tolia on Lisi and some in bed at home, this situation still poses some important questions about school security. Do we just stay home every time there’s a bomb threat on Telegram? Or do we go to school and just hope for the best? As Mr. Cruz said in our interview with him, “Even if they’re not terrorists, they have terrorized you”:

“ It’s possible that any empty threat could be real. Imagine that I'm in Boston and there is a serious threat to the school. Police and the Ministry of Interior of Massachusetts are going to contact me immediately and say ‘We are not sure, but there is credible information that something could happen – our recommendation is no school for today or not have school until some specified time.’ It's not that I believe immediately that the threat is real, but I have credible information to take it seriously. But the thing that happened now is that a bunch of people got hysterical on Facebook and said that they saw something on Telegram and spread it around. The ministry of interior said: ‘We don't have any information about this.’ The minister of interior was saying from the morning ‘We don't have any information. We had checked this particular school but we haven't seen anything.’ That's why I decided to keep the school open. And then, some of the parents were calling: ‘Why don’t you talk to the parents?’. But to talk about what? Then I'm giving importance to something that has zero importance. Now your opinion on this may differ. If your opinion is that no matter what happens, it’s always, always better to be safe – okay, well then I can assure you that half of the days we will not come to school. Also, even on a normal day which is not a threat of terrorism or anything, anything could happen to you on the way to school, no? I mean, life is life. But what I mean is, if you don't have anything other than a bunch of people on Facebook going around with a Telegram – yeah, we had the obligation to see if the ministry has some information that they can share with us, but the information was that they don’t know. So then, what is the school supposed to do – close the school? What we should not do, is get hysterical every time somebody says something like that – then these people win. Even if they’re not terrorists, they have terrorized you.”

After the fact, April 22nd will stay as a fun memory for most students, but ultimately it served as a reminder of how quickly unchecked information can spread and its detrimental effects. So, make sure to fact-check everything you see and not let nonexistent terrorists terrorize you.

Edited by: Tasia Kurdghelia

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