Last updated on December 25, 2021
School districts across the country issued warnings, increased security or canceled classes Friday in response to vague, anonymous shooting and bomb threats that officials say were made on TikTok but are not considered credible.
TikTok said it has found no evidence of threats originating on its platform and is working to remove videos discussing the rumor.
Schools have been experiencing an uptick in social media threats of violence since September, but the threats are typically local or regional. There have been 32 school shootings in 2021, according to Education Week, which tracks such incidents that result in firearm-related injuries or deaths.
TikTok released a statement this morning about the recent increase of “challenges” on the platform, saying “The majority are fun and safe, but some promote harmful behaviors including the risk of serious injury. Our Community Guidelines prohibit dangerous challenges.”
Officials say most of the threats are generic, but at least one district in Minnesota said law enforcement determined based on interviews that it was “specifically identified in a TikTok post related to this threat,” but “the origins of this threat remain unknown.”
School officials, law enforcement and local leaders have assured parents they are monitoring the situation, but the threats are not credible.
A spokesman with the National School Safety and Security Services urged parents to talk with their children about what information they’re seeing online and alert school officials and law enforcement about potential threats. He said parents as well as kids should look for information from credible sources, not rely on “social media rumor and misinformation.”
Parents should also warn kids against sharing unconfirmed information, as it may unintentionally contribute to anxiety and stress.
Parents should also give their children context about the threats by explaining what they and educators are doing to keep students safe, “so that there’s some reassurances, psychologically, (but) not giving a false sense of security,” he said. “I often encourage parents to have candid conversations.”
Schools need to be proactive by creating threat assessment teams, training and protocols, and a crisis communication plan to quickly disseminate information to parents before an incident occurs.
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