If you want to know why Roosevelt High School was forced to close its doors from threats after a teacher let students make a piñata out of President Donald Trump’s face, well, it wasn’t because of the teacher.

It would be too easy to blame Spanish teacher Jay Moser for the piñata, a part of a Cinco de Mayo event Moser hosted. And sure, Moser probably used some bad judgment. It’s probably not a good idea to encourage students to hit an image of our president, whether or not you think he deserves it. For context, the other side of the piñata depicted Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Instead, we believe the unruly threats from students that eventually caused the school to close were sparked by the unfortunate reactions of a parent and district officials.

First, Lesley Hollywood, the parent, was concerned about the piñata. Sure. And in a response to that concern, she decided to post photos of the piñata and her concerns on Facebook. Sigh.

We have no idea why Hollywood posted on Facebook rather than taking her concerns to the administration or the principal of the high school. We suspect, based on several more posts on her page that talk about her appearances on local and national media since then (including our newspaper, granted), that she enjoys the attention.

In fairness to her, we suspect that at least some other parents would have done the same thing. Posting something like this on Facebook is the reflexive action of too many of us these days. Many of us, not just Hollywood, are addicted to the buzz.

In this case, however, the buzz came from a hornet’s nest after Johnstown-Milliken Re-5J School District officials placed Moser on paid administrative leave. Hollywood has received hundreds of harassing messages and threats, including at least one that threatened her life. We feel bad for her child, but she’s the one who kicked the nest.

We also think school officials overacted to Hollywood’s overreaction. A public suspension seems a bit much when a good chewing out behind a closed door would have probably sent the same message. We think the administration had a choice to do that even after Hollywood shined her own spotlight on the incident. Unfortunately the administration disagrees.

What happened next was almost predictable. The students followed the adults’ lead and overreacted themselves.

This is, unfortunately, what social media can stir up these days. It’s the perfect boiling brew for our political climate of shouting down or threatening to lock up opponents. It didn’t escape us that many of the nasty comments that surfaced on social media about this issue came from those who live out of state. There are, in other words, professional trolls who live off the muck that leaks from ridiculous issues such as this one. Those trolls will always be hungry, and we wish it wasn’t so easy to feed them.

The easy answer would be to blame Moser for what happened. Moser should own some of the blame. But the rest goes to Hollywood, the school district officials and the rest of the people who chose to give in to their addiction to the buzz of hornets, rather than walk on by, whistling a soft tune.

— The Tribune Editorial Board


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