A recent trend by some high school and college students to create anonymous “confessions” Facebook pages has reached Central Oregon – and in the case of COCC, has prompted college and police scrutiny of a posted question about a rumor of campus violence.
On Sunday, a user – the Facebook pages use an outside mobile application to preserve anonymity -- posted a message saying they "heard the other day that someone was planning on shooting up the school."
That prompted one former student who now works at the college to contact police and NewsChannel 21.
Administrators of the page added this note: "This is something you should report to the police, not a confessions page. This is completely anonymous so we are unable to. Please, report it."
And several follow-up posters were critical of the original post, as well, wondering if it was a joke or for real.
On Monday morning, the college's emergency notification system was used to send out this e-mail and text:
“On Sunday afternoon. there was a posting on an anonymous social media site about a rumor of a potential violent activity on the COCC campus. We take all threats seriously and we have been in contact with the Bend Police Department and other law enforcement agencies that are investigating the situation."
"At this point, neither the police nor the College believes there is any reason to adjust our normal activity. We will post any updates to the cocc.edu/emergency site and use the COCC Emergency Notification System as needed."
"If you have any additional information, please contact the Bend Police Department at 541-693-6911 or COCC Public Safety at 541-383-7272 or send an email to email@example.com."
College spokesman Ron Paradis said the post appeared to be more asking about something that was reportedly heard than a direct threat. Still, he said, police will have some added presence on campus, in terms of patrols, he said.
Students we talked to Monday said they don't take anything from the site seriously.
"I think it's just a joke. I think someone just wants to get out there and scare everyone," said junior Jacob Akins. "I don't think you should take that site very serious."
"I think it's ridiculous, I think it's bogus," said freshman Colby Camirand. "You know, I've never seen any kind of violent act on this campus."
Redmond and Ridgeview high schools also have similar pages, as do Summit and other area high schools.
The Redmond School District provided this statement on Monday:
“The district is aware of the trending “Confessions,” pages on Facebook involving Ridgeview and Redmond High Schools. Please know that these third party pages are not property of, endorsed or controlled by the Redmond School District. We believe that these pages are not only potentially harmful to our students and staff but to the culture and community that we have worked hard to build in our schools.”
“The district has specific policies regarding cyberbullying and takes seriously the responsibility of protecting the public integrity of our teachers, staff and students. We have contacted Facebook to report both pages and will respond appropriately to any threats or allegations of illegal activity. “
“We do encourage the public that you feel that a threat or allegation has been made about you or your child, please report the post to Facebook and contact law enforcement.”
As others have reported, while many of the "confessions" on these public pages are harmless, flirtatious and even amusing, other posts mention sex, drugs or target individuals, often using obscene language -- and in naming other students have opened a new, hard-to-control front in the debate over online bullying.
While many of the school pages quickly grow to have hundreds, even thousands of "likes," a page called "Stop Confession Pages" had only 48 as of Monday.