Part one: When Innocent Apps Turn Deadly

MARYLAND – Violence knocking on our school doors, is becoming a harsh reality.

In 2022 alone, there were 95 reported incidents of gunfire on school grounds, in which 40 people were killed and 76 injured, according to Every Town for Gun Safety.

As those incidents spike, we’re looking closer at what drives the violence, and how social media plays a role.

This is part one of our two part series:When Innocent Apps Turn Deadly.’

“The shooter come to the door and tell his teacher goodnight and shot her and then he announced are y’all ready to die?” -Uvalde survivor.

A Disturbing Trend Spiking: Violence Inside School Walls

Recently, a shooting in Uvalde, Texas took the lives of 21 people, marking it the 27th school shooting in 2022.

“What happens when one day people know the name Lewes, Delaware, Cambridge, Maryland, Salisbury, Maryland?” said Salisbury Mayor, Jake Day.

Violence Close to Home

In November of 2021, a James M. Bennett student was arrested for bringing a loaded gun to school.
A threat serious enough for Nicole Hollywood, a mother of three, to take her son out of school.

“He simply told me he didn’t feel safe, he didn’t feel comfortable, he didn’t like the way the school was handling the situation. He was watching it unfold on social media,” explained Hollywood.

Luckily, the threat was contained before anything could happen.
But it was a different story this January, where an assault involving multiple students at Easton High School, also injured two staff members.

“Every child, every single child should be able to go to school without fear or threat of being targeted,” said Wicomico County Sheriff, Mike Lewis. “You can only imagine how nightmarish it must be for a parent but imagine being a law enforcement officer in a school setting knowing that you are the only one standing between that evil person and the loss of precious lives.”

Turning in the Badge

As of August, two deputies resigned from the department after being assigned to work in county schools.
Sheriff Lewis telling 47ABC, the officers would rather turn in the badge, then walk in the building.

“A lot of deputies don’t want to work in schools at all, because they’re deemed to be war zones,” said Sheriff Lewis.

Those war zones he’s referring to are places like Wicomico Middle School. It was in those halls, less than a year ago, that a 14-year-old student assaulted a school deputy.

“We have a big problem, and I believe part of that problem is taking care of young people, where it all starts,” said Child Psychologist, Dr. Kathy Seifert.

Where Does it Start?

Often times threats first surface on social media.
In the Uvalde shootings, the Washington Post reports that the gunman had threatened multiple people online before firing the gun.
Child Psychologist Dr. Kathy Seifert says those apps can give underdeveloped children a space to express themselves.

“We all want to be liked and appreciated and have people say ‘Oh you’re a great person!’ We all need that. These kids do too. And if they haven’t had it they will look for it in the easiest way that they think they can get it,” said  Dr. Seifert.

A Tweet, A Snap, A Text

If those become viral, it can trigger an even greater need for attention.

“We’ll I can just say I’m going to shoot up the school, I don’t have to really do it. But I’ll get a lot of attention,” said Dr. Seifert.

And with each ‘like’ and ‘share’ on social media. . .

“Serotonin is released when children or adults engage in an activities that they find pleasurable,” said Dr. Seifert. “If they get attention, that’s pleasurable.”

Is Social Media Fostering Threatening Behavior?

Dr. Seifert says the answer isn’t that simple.

“Social media is a place where there are no repercussions for whatever you do.”

But that isn’t always the case. . .

Just a few months ago, a viral video sparked outrage and concern, that video shows a Parkside student holding up a pellet gun, shouting a violent racial statement.

“Viral video tapes are so prevalent today, it disrupts school almost every single day. Almost every single day things are brought to our attention. But in the end there are many crimes that are solved because of these viral video tapes,” explained Sheriff Lewis.

A Double Edged Sword

With roughly 4 billion users on social media today, the need for harnessing that platform and its users,  is greater than ever.

“Instead of ignoring social media, you, me, parents, everybody, need to be in there having the kinds of discussions that are needed on social media,” said Dr. Seifert.

In part 2 of our special report, we dive deeper into the platforms, as experts discuss the key moments that can change an outcome, before things turn deadly.




Categories: Crime, Local News, Maryland