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Stillwater students used social media to learn of classmate's death

Before they were even allowed to leave their classrooms, students at Stillwater Junior High used social media to discover a classmate had been shot.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD Published: September 27, 2012

Before they were even allowed to leave their classrooms after lockdown, the eighth- and ninth-graders at Stillwater Junior High knew one of their classmates had been shot.

Accurate or not, social media sites are a fast and effective way to share news as it unfolds.

Autumn Farnes, an eighth-grade classmate of Cade Poulos, who shot himself in the head in a school hallway Wednesday morning, said she learned of the incident on Facebook, which a friend accessed using his cellphone while they were still locked inside their classroom.

By the time the students were shepherded to buses waiting outside, they all knew the victim's name; by the time she got home, Farnes said, she learned it was an apparent suicide.

Just a few hours after the shooting, she was one of several students to start a memorial site for Polous on Facebook, where his name, photo — and speculation as to why he did what he did — were posted about the same time city police were releasing initial official information.

By Thursday, her page had received more than 20,000 “likes,” and hundreds of comments, from supporters local and from afar, were cited in stories published by news outlets worldwide.

“We had our phones out while we were in lockdown, and there were already a couple posts on Facebook,” Farnes said on Thursday. “But honestly, I really didn't know him, I didn't even know his name until the incident.”

Farnes said she created the Facebook memorial page because she wanted to celebrate his memory and to give her classmates an outlet to discuss the issue. It doesn't bother her that strangers use the site to speculate on the reason behind the incident.

Some of the people who commented on the page suggested that bullying played a role or that he was dressed as a character in a Batman movie. These rumors then made it into some sensationalist media reports.

Stillwater Schools Superintendent Ann Caine said Thursday she had talked with Poulos' family.

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