A growing number of school districts nationwide are stepping up security Friday as they respond to non-specific threats that have gone viral on social media and appear to have originated on TikTok.
The nationwide social media threats seem to have begun as a viral TikTok challenge for kids to skip class Friday – but were twisted, at some point, to appear as a school shooting threat that continued to circulate on social media, according to television station WJLA.
Authorities in multiple states, including California and Connecticut, tell our sister-stations that the threats to their local schools have not been deemed credible by investigators. They appear to carry the same theme and reference the potential for campus shootings on Dec. 17.
"We're aware of the Tik Tok posts and are closely monitoring the rumors," the Roseville Police Department in the Sacramento area told our colleagues at ABC10.
In various states, social media users are repurposing the viral shooting rumors and making them seem local. Florida has been no exception.
"This morning we’ve seen an increase in rumors on social media regarding a national school threat post that has gone viral," the Citrus County School District wrote on Facebook. "It seems students, along with parents, are either sharing a post or manipulating the original post to reflect a new threat at a specific school. This is creating disruption at many of our schools today."
Citrus said its schools were "inundated" with calls from parents Thursday, asking about the threats. The district said it had no indication of any credible threats to its campuses.
"Just this morning at Crystal River High School, our critical alert system was activated for a medical emergency involving a student," the district wrote. "This activation had nothing to do with a threat of any kind, however, students and staff responded according to our safe school plan. However, due to the message we posted Tuesday, the medical alert at CRHS created a heightened sense of concern at all of our schools."
Citrus school leaders asked families to report any suspicious information directly to law enforcement immediately, rather than reposting it on social media. Leaders said schools would be in session Friday.
Elsewhere in the Tampa Bay area, school leaders expected classes to be held Friday, too.
"Local law enforcement has seen no evidence that there is any credibility to the social media posts," Hillsborough County Schools wrote to parents. "Nevertheless, they will continue to investigate. Please know these posts are fairly generic and they do not directly relate to any of our schools or the district."
Like in Citrus, Hillsborough leaders encouraged parents and students not to share social media posts about threats but to contact authorities to investigate.
"Our schools will continue to employ campus safety procedures, and will continue to communicate with parents if there is a threat involving a specific school," Hillsborough said.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office told 10 Tampa Bay it was aware of the social media posts that had been circulating.
"However, we have not heard any reports of that here in Hillsborough County," an HCSO spokesperson wrote. "As always, we will continue to monitor our schools and if anyone knows of any threats to a specific school in the county, we’d urge them to call 911 with that information as soon as possible."
North Port Police said it would be providing "additional resources" to schools across the city.
For its part, TikTok has said it takes a firm stance against enabling violence.
"We do not allow people to use our platform to threaten or incite violence, or to promote dangerous individuals or organizations," TikTok writes in its community guidelines. "When there is a threat to public safety or an account is used to promote or glorify off-platform violence, we may suspend or ban the account. When warranted, we will report threats to relevant legal authorities."