Schools across the U.S. are on alert following reports of a challenge being posted on the social media app TikTok encouraging students to carry out violent acts at their schools on Friday, Dec. 17.
Both the Shawnee Mission and Blue Valley school districts in the last 24 hours have sent messages to families, saying neither district has heard specific threats to their schools or to Johnson County.
But each district still encouraged families to talk to their kids about the alleged Dec. 17 challenge.
Shawnee Mission Superintendent Michelle Hubbard sent an email to parents Thursday, which said SMSD was taking the issue seriously, no matter how “causal or vague” the threats were.
“I am asking for your help. Please take some time to talk to your child(ren) about the pressures of social media and the potential consequences of engaging in this type of behavior,” Hubbards letter said. “I worry that, with the wide availability of cell phones and social media, some of our young people will inadvertently make mistakes that will follow them for the rest of their lives. As a reminder, in today’s world, it is never okay to make any kind of joke or threat about school violence, period.
“Ask them not to repost any threatening posts or messages. Instead, please remind them if they ‘see something’ to ‘say something’ to a trusted adult. Our schools are incredibly safe, and with everyone’s help, we will keep them that way.”
Likewise, Blue Valley officials provided a statement to the Post that was sent to families, which said in part:
“Blue Valley schools will not tolerate any threats of violence made against any school, staff member or student. Any threats will be taken seriously and will be reported to local law enforcement. Challenges like this are not jokes or pranks. Threats of violence can result in serious disciplinary and legal action.”
Blue Valley encouraged families to “talk with your child about being socially responsible and kind, and express the severity of this challenge.”
The district also urged families to tell their kids to report any concerning comments or behaviors to a teacher, staff member or law enforcement.
Other Kansas City area school districts have also reportedly been put on alert following news of the alleged TikTok threats.
The Kansas City Star reports that Kansas City Police are monitoring potential threats originating on the app but have not seen anything specific to a Kansas City school.
Schools in other American cities, including Philadelphia, have beefed up their police and security presence Friday in response to concerns about the alleged threats.
The company TikTok also says it is working with law enforcement to look into potential threats circulating on its app.
We handle even rumored threats with utmost seriousness, 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.
— TikTokComms (@TikTokComms) December 16, 2021
Earlier this year, schools across the country reported students damaging school bathrooms as the result of another challenge that originated on TikTok.
The mayhem included ripping urinals off the wall, smashing mirrors and floor tiles and pulling stall doors off their hinges.
More recently, threats against schools have garnered public attention following the deadly shooting at a Michigan high school.
Earlier this month, both the Kansas City, Kan., and Blue Springs public school districts investigated what they felt to be credible threats of violence against high schools.