Schools ramp up security over shooting ‘threats’ on TikTok
Schools across the US are either canceling classes or tightening security measures after widespread concerns that vague school shooting and bombing threats circulating on TikTok could turn out to be real.
Education authorities in a number of states, including Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Montana, New York and Pennsylvania, stated on Thursday that there would be heightened police presence in schools. Meanwhile, districts in California, Missouri, Texas and Minnesota have canceled classes for the day.
According to various media outlets, a number of police and school officials have dismissed the threats as not “credible.” The Associated Press reported that the “vague, anonymous posts” had warned about threats to “multiple schools,” but tech news outlet The Verge noted there was “little evidence” that the threats “even exist.”
Although the alleged threats have been reported as being part of a new TikTok “trend” and “challenge,” their origins are unclear. However, several videos on the popular social media platform reference December 17 and school violence – with some users “praying” for those going to school to “be safe.”
Videos like these warning of school violence are going viral on TikTok. Several local police departments and school districts say there are no credible threats. We’re separating rumor and fact starting at 5. #wfsbpic.twitter.com/fOfVTbVT7R— Matthew Campbell (@mgmcampbell) December 16, 2021
Officials in Tooele County School District in Utah said in a statement on Wednesday that the “original threat” began as a “way for students to skip school,” but has since “morphed into something much more disturbing.” Several school districts and law officials have warned of penalties to any mischief-makers.
In a tweeted statement on Thursday, TikTok said it was handling the issue with “utmost seriousness” and working with law enforcement to look into “warnings about potential violence” at schools. But the app also noted that it did not find “evidence” of these “rumored threats” originating or spreading via its platform.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy tweeted that although there are “no known specific threats” against any schools in the state, law enforcement would “monitor the situation and remain prepared.”
While there are no known specific threats against New Jersey schools, the safety of our children is our highest priority and we will work closely with law enforcement to monitor the situation and remain prepared.— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) December 16, 2021
The FBI has also reportedly issued a statement to media outlets regarding the threats, noting that it was continuing to “monitor intelligence” nationwide, but was “not aware” of any “specific ... or known credible” warnings to schools in the Los Angeles region.
According to the Center for Homeland Defense and Security, US schools have been subjected to nine active and 235 non-active shooter incidents this year. The purported TikTok threats have come weeks after school shootings in Michigan and Colorado.