NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – Law enforcement and schools are on high alert amid an apparent TikTok trend threatening violence nationwide on Friday.
According to statements from schools and police departments in multiple states, including Connecticut, the posts to TikTok and other social media platforms, encouraging students to bring weapons to school on Dec. 17 are part of a “nationwide trend.”
“There are multiple, potential social media posts that are being taken seriously by school administrators and that have caused law enforcement to respond, but no credible threats at all at this point in the state of Connecticut, and I believe that schools are safe,” Brian Foley, assistant commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Emergency Services, said.
Schools across Connecticut are beefing up security as a precaution.
“We are going to have additional police presence in the morning as students are being dropped off, and as students are being picked up, just because that is the most mobile time of day when you have large groups of kids outside,” Old Saybrook Superintendent of Schools Jan Perruccio said.
Glastonbury High School will have increased police presence Friday morning after police became aware of a school threat on social media referring to “GHS.” Glastonbury police said the online post is not believed to be referring to Glastonbury High School and is not believed to be specific to Connecticut, but there will be extra security at the school “out of an abundance of caution.”
The Connecticut Intelligence Center is investigating and monitoring the social media “trend,” but they have not yet identified any specific or credible threats to any school within the state.
TikTok released a statement Thursday which reads, “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.”
“Any school threat that is made in Connecticut is immediately taken very seriously by law enforcement. If a threat is determined to be a hoax, there will be a thorough investigation, and arrests will be made. This could also lead to further consequences within the school district,” Connecticut State Police released in a statement.
Last week, Hamden police arrested a 13-year-old for allegedly making violent threats against Hamden Middle School and Hamden High School.
State police said they have their intelligence unit monitoring social media and are working with local schools so what happened in that town won’t be repeated Friday.
“School resource officers did a great investigation,” Trooper Pedro Muniz said. “They were very thorough and were able to find the students very quickly. Arrests were made and if it does happen again, arrests will be made.”
Connecticut Education Association President Kate Dias released a statement regarding the nationwide TikTok school threat saying:
“We must all stand together to stop the dangerous new trend of using social media to instigate violence in our schools and communities. Just this week, Connecticut and the nation marked the somber 9th anniversary of the Newtown massacre that left 20 students and 6 educators dead. We are all aware of the dangerous situations facing our children and our communities, and we need to take all threats seriously and put an end to the fear, danger, and disruption they create for our communities. We encourage educators to continue to be diligent and report anything suspicious, and we urge parents to have regular discussions with their children about these threats. It’s past time for candid conversations about the duty that social media platforms have in ensuring threats against schools are not allowed to go viral. Social media corporations have the ability to monitor, track, and remove posts that threaten public safety and must actively take steps to prevent their platforms from being used to promote violence in schools and communities. They should be held accountable when they fail to do so. The lives of our children and families depend on it.Connecticut Education Association President Kate Dias
Fran Rabinowitz, executive director of the Connecticut Associaton of Public School Superintendents, says not only do these incidents lead to an interruption in learning, but it’s also upsetting to many.
“It’s incredibly traumatic for many of our students and that’s just not what school should be. School should always be a haven. It should be a joyful place,” Rabinowitz said.
Some districts and law enforcement agencies are also encouraging parents to talk to their children about the threats. It can be a difficult conversation, but the American Psychological Association offers a few tips on how to go about it.
Dr. Melissa Santos, division chief of pediatric psychology at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, said opening up that line of communication is key.
“The more we can create opportunities for our kids and adolescents to express what’s going on and really just speak — without being told, ‘wait I can fix that,’ or ‘I can help you with that,’ a lot of people want to be heard… and being heard goes a long way in these trying times,” Santos said.
Frederick Scholl, director of the graduate cybersecurity program at Quinnipiac University, said it’s critical lawmakers act to regulate the app and hold TikTok accountable.
“This particular app is really way worse than the others. It’s addictive and it’s harmful and I think that makes it dangerous,” Scholl said.
Attorney General William Tong has been pushing TikTok hard to do better, to stop these dangerous viral videos that have been going on for months.
“They have a lot of people and a lot of eyeballs looking at content, they are programming their machine, their algorithm to identify content. What I said to them was even though they are doing a lot, it’s not enough,” Tong said.
The video below is from a previous newscast.
Nexstar Media Wire contributed to this report.