Districts Increase Security in Response to TikTok Challenge

School districts around the country are ramping up security in response to a TikTok challenge that that has reportedly gone viral. The challenge encourages users to make “hoax threats” about a school shooting to occur on Friday, Dec. 17. Even though school staff and law enforcement officials say that they haven’t received any credible threats to follow through, many are increasing police presence on campus—and notifying parents—out of an abundance of caution.

“We are writing to inform you and not alarm you,” said school administrators from Oak Park and River Forest, Ill., in an email to parents. “We have been made aware of a nationwide viral TikTok trend about ‘school shooting and bomb threats for every school in the USA even elementary’ on Friday, December 17.”

CBS News reports that school officials in states including Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Montana, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas are aware of the trend and have made plans to station more officers in schools.

Broward County Public Schools in Miami, Fla., was among the first to announce the precautionary measures, noting that the “threat did not originate locally and is not believed to be credible.”

In North Texas, the Arlington Police Department warned that such threats—whether real or not—will have legal consequences. Following the shooting at Timberview High School in Arlington, Texas, in October 2021, officials have received a series of copycat threats that have led to several arrests.

“The FBI has been very clear from the beginning of this that they are there to lend their full support any time a threat is made to a school,” said Officer Jessie Minton of the Arlington Police Department. “I can think of probably five or six in just this semester that we have had to arrest people out of the school, or go to their home and an arrest was made,” said Officer Minton.

Michigan State Police said that as of Thursday, Dec. 16, they had not received any credible threats. Gilroy High School in northern California announced plans to close for the day. And schools in the Houston, Texas, area have reportedly barred students from wearing backpacks for the day.

TikTok announced in a Tweet that it is cooperating with law enforcement to investigate such threats. “We handle even rumored threats with utmost seriousness,” said the statement, “which is why we're working with law enforcement to look into warnings about potential violence at schools even though we have not found evidence of such threats originating or spreading via TikTok.”

About the Author

Matt Jones is senior editor of Spaces4Learning and Campus Security and Life Safety. He can be reached at MJones@1105media.com