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Stick to The Facts, Please

November 5, 2011
By HEATHER ZIEGLER , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Did you hear about the stabbings at the high school? How about the death threats and the hate mail? Did you read about that?

Maybe you read those kinds of things but it was on Facebook or in a text message, not in this newspaper. That's because there is more fiction than fact in those wild statements.

That's the kind of ilk that has been spewing the past two days all over Facebook and on other electronic means used most by the younger generation. Let's get things straight.

There WAS an incident at Wheeling Park High School this week that caused alarm for students, parents, teachers and staff. A fight, whether verbal or physical, happened at the school on Thursday. I was not there and did not see what occurred. Some students did. But the accounts of what actually occurred are so disjointed that I fear the entire story will never be accurately told.

Is it true a racial slur was made? Yes, according to school officials. Did a brutal fight break out? School officials said no.

Students are saying something a bit different. Whether the kids are merely fanning the flames of this story or telling the truth, I don't know.

School personnel took action by instituting a lockdown that kept students in the classrooms. Isn't that where they should be most of the time anyway?

A mediation session was held between school officials and the students involved in the incident. But then the story grew like a mushroom cloud.

So many rumors have been spread electronically by the students themselves that the story has blossomed from a fight to a race riot.

There is no perfect school or school system. Problems do happen, especially at the high school level. It's inevitable in a peer-pressured atmosphere.

How those problems are handled is what counts in the end.

Students involved in the original incident at Wheeling Park were disciplined by the school, which means someone probably was suspended. And when the principal heard another incident was brewing and students wearing camouflage may be targeted, students were instructed not to wear camouflage clothing to school the next day. Some kids did anyway and were told to go home.

What the school does not need are more rumors. With more than half the students equipped with cell phones, I imagine if something really does happen, it would be caught on a cell phone camera for all the world to see.

Maybe some of that time in the classroom should be devoted to instruction on telling the truth whether it's in writing, verbally, or on a Facebook page. The Internet and modern technology can be wonderful tools in the world of communications - but only if used responsibly, and that's not the case this time.

Sticks and stone do break bones, but words can do even more damage.

Heather Ziegler can be reached via e-mail at

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