Last Updated: 1:33 p.m.
The threat, spread across the nation on TikTok, the faceless social media bullhorn, is not credible or specific to most locations, as police and school authorities keep saying. But it alleges a coordinated campaign to attack schools or to encourage people to make bomb threats against campuses on this day, Dec. 17–it’s disrupting what for most school districts is the last day of the year before winter break, and it’s involving officials that include some states’ governors.
A day rife with absenteeism even in the most normal of times, when not much work is done in school anyway), may turn into a rout for attendance.
Some schools in several states, including Texas, Minnesota and Missouri are closing outright.
“Based on law enforcement interviews, Little Falls Community Schools was specifically identified in a TikTok post related to this threat,” Superintendent Stephen Jones wrote parents yesterday afternoon in a Minnesota school district. “In conversations with local law enforcement, the origins of this threat remain unknown. Therefore, school throughout the district is canceled tomorrow, Friday, December 17. All home events and activities are canceled or postponed both tonight and tomorrow. All district buildings will be closed as well while the investigation into the origin and validity of the threats continues.”
A California district also appeared to have been named, but district and police officials there traced the threat to a Los Angeles area high school, where a student was located as the originator of the TikTok message. That threat was also “determined not to be a credible threat,” according to a police advisory there.
In Florida, the response has been to step up police presence on campus. The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office Thursday evening issued an unusually brief, terse, as if fed up statement on its Facebook page: “The #FCSO is aware of a nationwide TikTok trend advising potential school threats tomorrow. There is no local or credible threat to our area.” The agency has dealt with numerous such threats by students at every school level locally since the resumption of the school year, all shown to be irresponsible “jokes” or hoaxes, including one elementary school girls’ calls on two occasions, from Rymfire Elementary, claiming that her school was the site of a shooting.
At 7:30 p.m., Jason Wheeler, the Flagler school district’s chief spokesman, issued an unusually lengthy, exasperated statement. He repeated the same disclaimers about the threat being not credible, assured parents that every threat would be taken seriously, appealed to students not to act irresponsibly and to parents to help.
“It doesn’t matter if it is a joke. It doesn’t matter if it is a prank. Any threat of violence could result in serious disciplinary issues that could damage a student’s educational future in Flagler Schools,” Wheeler wrote, a lengthy record of felony arrests of students for that reason behind him. “We are hoping that our families will partner with us to stop these pranks before they happen. Please take a few moments to talk to your children and express the severity of this issue.”
By 11 a.m., the Sheriff’s Office had issued a release about an arrest–an Indian Trails Middle School student “who created a TikTok account referencing a potential school shooting to take place the following day.”
“The reporting party advised there was a story posted with ‘Can’t wait for tomorrow,'” according to the release. “The juvenile responded to the story stating ‘You’re not funny and can’t joke about that,’ and the other account user advised ‘I’m not joking’ and ‘Wait for tomorrow.’ At approximately 10 PM, the account owner changed the username to ‘itms_school_food.'” The student who made the “wait for tomorrow” statement turned out to be a 13-year-old B-Section resident who told deputies he was “just joking.” He was arrested.
“This has to stop! Kids – making threats of violence will only get you arrested,” Sheriff Rick Staly said in the release. “Parents – talk to your children – now! Words have consequences. And saying it’s a joke is not an alibi.”
Though school campuses remain among the safest places in the country–they are safer than home, safer than neighborhoods, safer than college campuses–the year has not been as reassuring, comparatively speaking: shootings taking place on or near schools are at a record high in 2021, the latest mass shooting occurring at Oxford High School in Michigan, “one of 222 school shootings in 2021, an all-time high, according to the Center for Homeland Defense and Security’s K-12 School Shooting Database,” James Densley and Jillian Peterson reported. “That’s over 100 more school shootings in 2021 than in 2019 or 2018, respectively the second- and third-worst years on record.”
The two academics noted, first, that the majority of school shootings they studied were carried out by shooters who “leaked their plans in advance,” underscoring the importance of vigilance about signs on social media and elsewhere–such as conversations between friends or acquaintances at school–and second, that the typical shooter “was most strongly associated with suicidal tendencies or attempts, as well as prior mental health counseling, [which] suggests it may best be characterized as a cry for help.”
Wheeler addressed that last point in his message to parents: “We know the impact the past two years have had on the social-emotional health of our students, and that could be an explanation behind the desire for students across the country to participate in these challenges. We are always here for your student and for your family. If you need assistance of any sort, please reach out to your teachers, your school counselor, your school social worker, or your principal.”
Concerned Citizen says
FCSO just arrested another teen for making threats on Tik-Tok.
But it’s Ok for our elected officials to get on an FCC sanctioned device. And make threats of bodily harm to others. Double standards much?
Still waiting for accountability on that one. But oh wait the Sheriff is too busy arresting our teens and making instant offenders out of them. While protecting his best buddies on the BOCC.
One has nothing to do with the other. When I became a teacher 30 years ago, never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would have to learn how to defend my students and myself-learning that we should barricade the classroom door, use a fire extinguisher as a bat, etc. Trying to teach my students during heightened security levels and hoping they could learn when none of us felt safe-no matter what administration said about safety being their first priority was stressful for all. Could a 50-something woman protect a room of 30 kids? Really? I’d try but I’d die trying. I believe safety was their
first priority and everyone knew that the front office staff including administrators were in the line of fire first.
And now with someone on TikTok telling students to attack teachers and staff? There are days when I came on campus and there were numerous Deputy cars in the parking lot. There were
meetings immediately upon entering the building. Hmmm, was today the day I was going to lose my life because a student-could be one of
my own, is going to snap and open fire? I am no longer teaching. My health went bad and my career was the cause. I do miss the kids everyday.
Threats, even if not credible are add a level of stress to every adult and child on a campus.
Parents MUST be proactive with their kids. Safety is everyone’s concern.
I’m off my soapbox. Thank you for reading.
Concerned Citizen says
I would counter that by saying.
It has everything to do with everything.
Our children often emulate those around them. When they see adults do illegal things and see there are no consequences then they feel it is OK to do the same. What kind of example is being set at our public board meetings?
That becomes enhanced when the perpetrator of said crime is an elected official. I hold elected officials to higher standards than your normal citizen. Same goes for any sworn personnel doing a job that requires an oath.
Joe Mullins got on the air and said what he said with no consequences. Grown adults act the way they do at public meetings and this translates into OK behavior for our children.
I understand that there has to be some level of punishment for these infractions. But let’s make sure we are enforcing laws evenly between students and adults.
And I would have to agree with you after reading your clarification. Thank you for taking the time to make sure I understand.
The Internet! One of the Best and Worst inventions in my lifetime!!!!
The dude says
So many yeses to this.
At this point the interwebs is more harmful than good for humanity.
It all really went south when the Boomers flooded into the zone and started learning how to use Social Media.
Does this have to do with Prayer being taken out of school?
Concerned Citizen says
AJ you make a good point.
When I was growing up and going to school we said the pledge and said prayers. It seemed like we had less animosity and hatred. Sure you had the occasional meet me outside fight to square a disagreement but no weapons were involved. And in my area it wasn’t uncommon to see hunting rifles on the racks in Seniors pick up trucks. And we had no shootings.
Now as I approach 60 I am saddened by what society has become. There is so much anger and hostility around. And people are quick to resort to violence over the littlest thing.
As far as what transpires in schools now I fault a lack of parenting at home and the behavior of adults in public. Kids pick up on stuff around them. Simple case in point. One of my co-workers had his 3 year old daughter in the car with him one day. And let the F bomb slip when he got cut off. Not even 4 days later his wife is calling him to say she is dropping the F-Bomb repeatedly. Guess who got in trouble over that? LOL.
We need to learn how to respect one another and above all be kind. Life is short and none of us are guarenteed tomorrow. The world would be a better place if we loved instead of hated.
Perhaps….I suggest we ask students to use prayer rugs and pray 5 times a day facing Mecca.
They can pray silently or read the opening chapter of the Qur’an. Perhaps lead by the teacher in the classroom.
What’s that you say? That’s not the kind of prayer you had in mind?
Thank you for your comments.
Concerned Citizen says
Not sure why you are coming after me?
I just stated that the commenter had a good point.
As far as I’m concerned anyone should be allowed to pray how they see fit. It’s not my position to dictate otherwise. Likewise I do not judge a person by skin color or where they are from. I judge by character and how you treat others.
I have 3 tours in the Middle East and have a profound respect for the Muslim Religion. So get to know someone before you cast judgement.
We can solve this problem.
When a youth under the age of 16 makes any harmful statement on social media take away their device; charge the parents of the youth with a misdeameanor and have the parents pay a hefty fine. A ‘harmful statement’ is any statement that a school official or police officer has to respond to. The parents should be charged because afterall, it was the parents who put the device in the minor childs hands (and pay the bill) and were not monitoring the childs usage.
When anyone over the age of 16 makes any harmful statement using social media take away their device, charge them a hefty fine and add them to a ‘no phone’ list (like those no fly lists) that telecomm companies would have to consult before issuing smartphones.
If someone on a ‘no phone’ list is found with a phone then charge the person who signed the contract for the device. levy an even more hefty fine and add repeat offenders to the ‘no phone’ list.