MORIARTY, NM (KRQE) – A social media hoax led panicked parents to believe a child brought crystal meth to school, but law enforcement and the Moriarty school district are setting the record straight.
Someone on Facebook posted on Sunday what looked like a legitimate news story about a Moriarty Elementary third grader bringing crystal meth and drug paraphernalia to show and tell, and the student’s father was later arrested.
After nearly 1,000 shares, parents who had called the district or law enforcement commented that it was “fake news.”
“People already know [Moriarty] for that kind of thing so it makes us look.. it makes it seem true,” Jennifer Ramos of Moriarty said. “So many people are reluctant to move here, I think, because of the lack of jobs and then [that post] makes our school system look as equally bad.”
“It makes not just Moriarty, but a lot of the schools look bad. It makes it look like the principals aren’t caring, the teachers, the counselors. And it’s just — it’s crazy, it’s totally crazy,” Tracy Grycel said.
District Superintendent Tom Sullivan said the district quickly investigated and the dead giveaway that it was a fake story was the teacher quoted in the post doesn’t exist.
The poster later acknowledged the story was fake, saying he wanted to prove people will take anything at face value and to highlight the county’s drug problem.
Torrance County Sheriff Heath White said the big issue in addition to the initial panic was the disruption it caused the school district and law enforcement.
“I probably got about 35 to 40 calls,” White said. “When he first put it out, no one knew it was fake and we quickly realized it was, and a lot of issues and problems within the community started with calling the schools and reposting or believing this fake news.”
Had the poster made up the fake story about real people, White said law enforcement could charge him with a misdemeanor for libel, but legally, he’s off the hook.
“We deal with fake stories or Facebook posts all the time, so he’s not underneath any watch or anything like that,” White said. “He didn’t threaten anybody.”
Online, however, the poster is getting plenty of pushback from people defending their small community.
“Torrance County schools are amazing schools,” Grycel said.
White said the sheriff’s department is in touch with the schools on a daily basis. The police department also has a School Resource Officer who works on campus daily.