Emma González Conspiracy Theory Debunked: Parkland Student Did Not Admit to Bullying Nikolas Cruz

The twisted underbelly of the internet has produced a new conspiracy theory about the teen shooting survivors from Parkland, Florida. This time, it blamed them for the behavior of a gunman who entered the school and killed 14 of their classmates and three adults.

Boiled down, the theory claimed that the prominent student activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School bullied accused shooter Nikolas Cruz. The disparaging rumor had been percolating in the dark recesses of the web since at least early March, and it resurged after the March for Our Lives protest on March 24. Since then, it has been bouncing around far-right and gun advocacy Facebook pages in meme form.

David Hogg was mentioned in some of the posts, but Emma González appeared to be the primary target. A video snippet from her speech at a Florida demonstration was appropriated in an attempt to show her "admitting" to bullying Cruz.

"It was no surprise to anyone who knew him that he was the shooter," González said through tears. "Those talking about how we should not have ostracized him, you did not know this kid!"

Her full remarks made it clear that she was responding directly to one of President Donald Trump's tweets, in which he suggested that the shooting could have been prevented had there been adequate mental health care for the suspected shooter. She was also responding to critics who attributed the school shooting to bullying rather than the availability of high-capacity gun magazines and AR-15s.

Her full remarks are as follows:

"There is one tweet I would like to call attention to. 'So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities again and again.' We did, time and time again. Since he was in middle school, it was no surprise to anyone who knew him to hear that he was the shooter. Those talking about how we should not have ostracized him, you didn't know this kid! OK, we did. We know that they are claiming mental health issues, and I am not a psychologist, but we need to pay attention to the fact that this was not just a mental health issue. He would not have harmed that many students with a knife."

A deluge of tweets used the out-of-context snippet to support the claim that Parkland activists were directly responsible for the behavior of Cruz, who is about a year older than them. A slew of fringe blogs also hosted articles suggesting Gonzalez was responsible for the attack on her peers.

Cruz had been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for fighting and disruptive behavior at the time of the attack, and the FBI had been warned about online comments where he professed a desire to "become a professional school shooter." A previous school Cruz attended issued a behavioral report that made a note of the student's violent tendencies and fascination with weapons.

"Nikolas at times will be distracted by inappropriate conversations of his peers if the topic is about guns, people being killed or the armed forces," wrote Cross Creek School educators in a report that was subsequently released. "He is fascinated by the use of guns and often speaks of weapons and the importance of 'having weapons to remain safe in this world.'"

The school report did note that Cruz was bullied by students. He jumped off a bus at the urging of his peers, according to the report, and had difficulty understanding why offensive behavior led classmates to retaliate. But the claim that González, or any of the other prominent activists, was responsible for bullying Cruz remained unsubstantiated.

"Recently he was punched numerous times by a peer for using racial slurs towards that peer.… He refused to accept that the comments made by him caused the peers' reaction," stated the report, which was obtained by local news outlets.

Still, prominent psychologists took issue with the idea that bullying alone could have caused Cruz to lash out.

An FBI threat assessment concluded that a profile of a school shooter "does not exist." Peter Langman, a private practice psychologist and school shooting expert, previously told Newsweek that "most kids in high school and middle school are teased at some point, maybe feel excluded. That does not create mass murder."

Since the Parkland students became the public faces of a movement for increased gun control, opponents have repeatedly created conspiracy theories about them. In an op-ed for The New York Times, Parkland student Isabelle Robinson, who said she attempted to befriend Cruz and was assaulted by him, directly addressed people who blamed students for not accepting him into their social group.

"This deeply dangerous sentiment, expressed under the #WalkUpNotOut hashtag, implies that acts of school violence can be prevented if students befriend disturbed and potentially dangerous classmates," she wrote. "The idea that we are to blame, even implicitly, for the murders of our friends and teachers is a slap in the face to all Stoneman Douglas victims and survivors."

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Emma González Conspiracy Theory Debunked: Parkland Student Did Not Admit to Bullying Nikolas Cruz | U.S.
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