Rampant misinformation has Minnesota superintendents discussing change

“We’ve really been asking our parents to have conversations with our students about the seriousness of actions like this.”
Last month, Mankato Area Public Schools was one of many districts across the state that went into lockdown due to false threats.
Published: Oct. 6, 2022 at 9:03 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 6, 2022 at 9:19 PM CDT
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NORTH MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - Last month, Mankato Area Public Schools was one of many districts across the state that went into lockdown due to false threats.

Cleveland Public School, which was also affected by the swatting incident on Sept. 21, dealt with another hoax Monday.

Rumors of over 100 fentanyl pills being found on campus during a routine locker check started a social media hurricane.

The district says no illegal items were found. And zero fentanyl pills.

“We’ve really been asking our parents to have conversations with our students about the seriousness of actions like this,” Saint Peter Public Schools Superintendent Bill Gronseth said.

“With the limited information available to us, we were unable to determine who made the call to KEYC,” Cleveland Public School Superintendent Brian Phillips said in a written statement. “What bothers me most is that someone can so easily spread false information and remain anonymous. Spreading false information can cause a great deal of chaos for a school system”

“But when something is absolutely inaccurate, misleading, or if it creates in the community cause for concern, or fear, or a level of distrust that is absolutely unwarranted that’s when schools have to, over the course of the last several years, had to be more forward facing with the community saying that’s not accurate, this is what’s going on,” Mankato Area Public Schools Superintendent Paul Peterson added.

Authorities say false threats to schools, including what is known as “swatting,” can come from overseas or even next door.

“We were alerted to the lockdowns and took additional action in our school. Swatting should be considered an act of terrorism and individuals should receive a fitting consequence for spreading terror,” Phillips said.

“Many young people have this alternate world and as parents in this digital age, it’s important to us to know what our students are involved with just like we would monitor our student’s activities we should be helping them navigate that digital world,” Gronseth described.

“But we know that this is just part of our landscape, misinformation, sowing seeds of distrust in public institutions that part of now what we are working in, but to have people take it to the next level, which sews seeds of people’s concern for their safety,” Peterson said.

There are no suspects in last month’s swatting incident or the more-recent false report of drugs.