We suppose there are at least two ways to look at the recent threat of violence at Freedom High School in which the use of social media created a virtual panic in Oakley, where the high school is located, and the surrounding communities.
One way is to use this case as an object lesson that, indeed, the social media world can be dangerous and that careless remarks and rumors can have expensive and frightening consequences. But that is hardly a new insight. There have been literally hundreds of news stories around the country in which social media have proved to be a useful tool for both nefarious and moronic purposes.
To be sure, there is some value in that line of thinking, but it ignores the details of the instant case. We will refresh for those who are fuzzy on those details.
In late October, the administration at Freedom began to pick up rumors of a fight that might be brewing between rival gang members on the campus. Officials tell us there are only seven known gang members and a few hangers-on on the campus of more than 2,300 students. Nonetheless, the school leaders found the rumors troubling. They took it seriously.
The school had made great efforts to separate the Norteños and Sureños gang members on campus, but apparently the groups recently had clashed when they were watching a fight between two girls in the school's quad area.
The school took appropriate disciplinary measures in those cases, but rumors began to circulate about a coming confrontation that might involve weapons.
According to reporter Rowena Coetsee's report, school officials didn't just wait for it to happen, they began searching the student database for names that had come up in conversation and interviewing those people to find out where the scuttlebutt had originated.
As the speculation grew, officials turned to the Internet, taking screen shots of students' Facebook pages and scouring Twitter conversations searching for clues to the source and credibility of the rumor.
Finally, social media sites exploded. When that happened, Principal Erik Faulkner called in the school superintendent as well as the police. A security plan was established. Despite a day with 60 percent absenteeism in the school, the fears of confrontation thankfully turned out to be baseless.
Afterward Faulkner wisely met with a group of Freedom parents to explain what the turmoil had done to the school. He told them of heightened anxiety, missed meetings, time spent planning the school's response.
Which leads us to the second way to assess this case.
To us, the great object lesson here is that the Freedom High personnel were alert and are to be commended for taking extra and, we think, necessary precautions to ensure the safety at the school.
Earlier this year, Faulkner was named principal of the year for Contra Costa and Alameda counties. Based on what we know of his actions in this case, we can certainly see why he was afforded that honor.
Schools throughout the East Bay -- and the nation, for that matter -- could learn from the proactive approach taken by administrators and staff at Freedom High School.