Yet this has turned out to be quite a boon, as we've instead watched events unfolding in quite astounding ways at Nashua High School North, in the USA's New Hampshire.
At least insofar as these things normally turn out.
Seventeen Names Discovered in New Hampshire Schoolgirl's Fake Death Note
On the morning of Friday, October 9th 2015, a store bought cosplay Death Note(book) was discovered in the possession of a Nashua schoolgirl.
No details concerning how, when, where or why have emerged, other than it was found by administrators at Nashua High School North.
Known for its athletic achievements, this public educational faculty is located in the city of Nashua, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire.
What is clear is that the notebook contained the names of seventeen fellow students. In the fabled tradition of Kira, the date, time and manner of their (proposed) deaths was listed alongside each entry.
Naturally no-one actually died, as this was a replica Death Note and the schoolgirl wasn't Light Yagami.
* Comments on reports published on-line by local news agencies.
No Hysteria in New Hampshire Over Death Note
The principal informed her that 'it was being handled and please return to class'.
This is the first hint - chronologically - of the common sense approach taken by Busteed and other Nashua authority figures in dealing with the incident.
A reaction which felt downright refreshing to read, when compared to the hysteria usually accompanying Death Note related 'scares' in US schools.
Just see some of the recent stories (linked right) for evidence of that. Not even accounting for the boy expelled in 2008 for writing George W Bush's name in a 'Death Note'.
June 2015: 13 year old Connecticut boy arrested by police and suspended from school after being found with a reproduction Death Note(book).
April 2014: 10 year old Tennessee boy suspended from school for two weeks, after tearing page out of an ordinary notebook and writing Death Note on the top.
February 2014: Depressed and suicidal 8th grader in Arizona submitted for psychiatric treatment after a replica Death Note is found on him at school.
Posted shortly before close of day on that same Friday, it briefly outlined what had occurred - that administrators and a 'school resource officer' had recovered a Death Note from an unnamed pupil.
Iterating that 'at no time was any child in danger', the principal explained that the costume reproduction Death Note itself posed no threat. It could easily be bought from retailers, both in real world shops and online.
She went on to provide a context for the prop:
According to the story, the book is perceived to have some kind of magical power to cause harm to the person listed — there were several of our Titan students’ names on the list.
~ Principal Marianne Busteed, report by Kimberley Houghton, 'Death list' with names of 17 students discovered at Nashua High School North, New Hampshire Union Leader (October 12th 2015)
Please know that the safety of our students is our primary concern, and that we will fully discipline the student who developed this list in accordance with the Nashua School District student behavior standards
Nobody appears to have added that said counsellors could also point out the difference between fantasy and reality, with particular regard to how owning Death Note memorabilia does not make one Kira.
Rabble Rousing Parent Facebook Panics over Replica Death Note in Nashua
But first she took to Facebook.
Presumably because they all thought that a shinigami MIGHT turn up and words written on a piece of paper would come true.
Though in truth, none of them were overly concerned about such things. They were all too busy equating costume notebooks with firearms, and playing armchair psychiatrists in denunciations of the schoolgirl as 'mentally unstable' or a 'sociopath'.
By the time they'd finished warming up, their calls and emails had gone out to every major news outlet, plus everyone from the local Mayor to the President of the United States (and his wife).
Meanwhile, the young lady in possession of the Death Note had reached out on Facebook to Madeline Charest, in order to apologise for any upset and assure her that she really didn't mean any harm.
Imitation Death Note at Nashua High School Sparks Social Panic in the Press
"I think the mystery shrouding this is what's causing the alarm to parents... Parents are afraid. Kids are afraid."
~ Danielle Charest, report by Mike Cronin, 'Death Notes' (sic) book found in Nashua school raises concerns, WCVB (October 12th 2015)
"I pray with every ounce of my being that it's never something that would turn into a tragedy," Charest said. "But how do you know it wouldn't? How do you know this isn't the beginning of a tragic situation?"
Exactly the same story was repeated on WMUR News on Demand (October 12th 2015), though the editor there at least caught the typo in the headline. This version is notable because of the 200+ comments left upon it, constituting a slanging match/witch-hunt starring Nashua High School North parents and associates.
Grab your peanuts and switch your incredulity levels down low to read them. You'll need it.
Personal favourites include:
- Momof2, who claimed her daughter didn't know why she was on the list, but it was probably because she's 'pretty and has friends'.
- BrianHyland, who agrees that writing names down won't hurt the individual but 'writing them down in that book, is a serious matter'.
Meanwhile, my prize for best social scare-mongering presentation of the story in the press goes to Seventeen Magazine for this:
Practical Response from Police and Principal in Nashua Death Note 'Scare'
That's because - under considerable pressure from parents to act otherwise - those in charge of the situation kept things utterly in proportion.
Principal Marianne Busteed refused to release the girl's name, nor any details concerning disciplinary action carried out by Nashua High School North. If, indeed, any was judged appropriate to the situation.
All this despite a barrage of calls and emails from parents and the press demanding that she spill immediately.
She also arranged a meeting for parents at the school on October 13th. Then, when Danielle Charest and co began to rally people to attend and demand more answers than the principal was legally (and ethnically) able to give, Busteed simply closed the meeting to all but those parents directly involved.
Meanwhile, Nashua police officers did investigate, and representatives were on hand to answer questions and reassure at the Tuesday evening meeting.
We did not find any evidence that the student had intended to harm students or that there were any plans beyond simply placing the students’ names on the list.
~ Superintendent Mike Conrad, report by Kevin Melrose, New Hampshire high school shaken by ‘Death Note’ scare (October 14th 2015)
She's a juvenile. US privy laws protect such things, particularly if she's not been charged with anything.
He also shook off requests that the girl be constantly monitored by the judiciary, including a watch on all her digital communications across all devices. It was neither necessary nor legal in the circumstances.
I assigned multiple detectives to this; it is an ongoing investigation... We don't feel there's an ongoing safety issue.
~ Nashua Police Chief Andrew Lavoie, report by Osvaldo Nunez, 'Nothing To Worry About' After High School Officials Find 'Death Note' With Names In Them, Design & Trend (October 16th 2015)
The sticking point being that no crime had actually been committed. The replica Death Note could not kill.
The student and their parents were interviewed and were very cooperative and open about what was going on. It was determined that no criminal threatening, nor any other crimes were committed.
~ Nashua Deputy Police Chief Michael Carignan, report by Tina Forbes, Authorities report school safe after ‘Death Note’ found, Nashua Telegraph (October 16th 2015)
But if she's frightened them, then she's genuinely sorry.
As was said before - all quite refreshingly practical, polite and proportional in response from those central to the situation. (Less so from those on the periphery.)
Now. Is anyone going to deal with the fact that she was purportedly being bullied, and that's why she listed those seventeen names in her notebook in the first place?