Human curiosity is a completely normal tendency. So it is not surprising that following the release of a Palo Alto High School senior’s mugshot on several social media sites during the last days of spring break, the Paly community, along with the larger Palo Alto community, became captivated with searching for a better understanding of the situation.
Unfortunately, this search has led the community to gossip and make unfounded assumptions about the arrested student and his actions. This tendency has an even greater effect as the discussions are taking place not only on the Quad or between friends, but also in heated discussions online.
The comment sections of websites, such as Facebook in particular, are especially vile as members of the community get heated in their discussions. For example, the mugshot of the student arrested, which the Palo Alto Police Department posted on its Facebook page, contains racist and threatening comments and plenty of gossip and speculation. This kind of activity sparks rumors and spreads falsities that can negatively affect this student’s reputation. The student already will face repercussions for his actions, so there is no need to further antagonize the situation.
In addition to social media blasts, there is then the aspect of the face-to-face gossiping that occurs on Paly campus. Over the past week, Paly students have been telling a variety of different versions of the story, which twists the details of the actual occurrences and subsequently leads others to jump to false conclusions. By spreading these falsities the student body unnecessarily adds on to the problems of the student.
While I do not necessarily support the actions of the student, this treatment of the student is simply unacceptable. By resorting to such low methods as gossiping, spreading rumors and racist or threatening remarks, the community is portraying itself in a poor moral-light.
A more appropriate response would have included a way for the student to deal with the repercussions more privately without the community members sticking their noses into and judging the situation. In time, the true events of the situation will become apparent, so spreading false information in the mean time is just pointless. I believe that the Paly community can act much better than we are doing so now. We often pride ourselves on being a progressive and supportive high school and this is our opportunity to prove that we really do fulfill that description.