Social media plays role in Ohio school shooting


Students inside an Ohio high school where three students were fatally shot used Twitter and Facebook on their smartphones to let their parents know what was happening during the Ohio shooting rampage.

Now, experts say social media can play a bigger role in predicting and preventing violence.

"I was really shocked when I found out that it was him," said student Evan Erasmus, talking about the suspect in the lastest school shooting. "He was, I mean, he was quiet, but he was one of the nicest kids there. You could talk to him really easily. I mean, he was funny. It was really shocking that it was him."

"I'm really shocked that it was T.J. He was always really quiet, but you could tell he had a very sad look in his eyes all the time. He usually just kept to himself," echoed classmate Hayley Kovacik.

"Shocked," "Can't imagine," "We had no clue," are phrases that often follow school shootings, time and again.

Experts on youth violence say there are usually warning signs. The teen killers either tell someone about the planned violence, or these days, post it on social media.

That was the case in the Ohio shooting. The shooter had reportedly posted "Die to you all" on Facebook in December.

"We find there were signs, there were things that were missed, there were people who knew and didn't come forward," said Chuck Hibbert, an Indianapolis-based school safety consultant.

Eyewitness News asked Hibbert about the difficulty in patrolling social media for kids on the brink of trouble.

"Who at the high school is empowered, has the time, to monitor 1,100 students communication?" Hibbert questioned, highlighting the difficulty of such a task. He says parents, students and administrators must all be vigilant.

In just the last four months, schools like Shelbyville called off classes in the face of reported threats. Beech Grove increased security. In some cases, it was just kids spouting off, but there's little room for second guessing.

"It breaks my heart, because so many of these situations can be prevented," said Hibbert. "We've seen interventions when communities come together and information has been shared."

Students these days are more connected than ever.

Moments after the gunfire in Ohio, they jammed cell tower signals telling their parents - and the world - what was going on, as they huddled in fear.

The key experts say is to make students comfortable reaching out to school staff before tragedy strikes. Just this school year, Hamilton Southeastern schools took action to shut down social media sites with threatening and offensive content.

Hibbert says the Supreme Court will be deciding yet this year how far school districts can go when it comes to students' free speech rights on social media.