COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Mid-Missouri schools continued Friday to tell parents there's not a specific, credible threat generated from reports of a viral TikTok challenge, while law enforcement agencies stepped up their vigilance.
Reports of a TikTok video that challenges kids to send threats to their school on Friday emerged this week and quickly spread nationwide. Some schools have closed, including Gasconade County R-II, while others are reminding parents that there is no credible threat and telling them police are on the lookout.
Gasconade County Superintendent Jeri Hardy said the school found three threats to blow up the school written on bathroom stalls that might be connected to the TikTok reports, which prompted the closure.
Threats also stopped the North Callaway basketball teams from playing scheduled games in Louisiana, Missouri, on Friday night.
Boonville and Columbia districts sent out messages Friday morning saying there was no local threat to their schools and that the social media post that started the scare didn't make any specific threats.
"Boonville Schools, as always, have safety as a top priority for all students and staff," the district said in its message. "We truly appreciate the support of our community and dedication of our staff to follow our mission of educating young minds every day."
Officials at Columbia Public Schools said Friday that they're aware of the nationwide TikTok trend but they haven't seen any local threats.
"Law enforcement is also aware," CPS spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said. "No specific schools or districts are mentioned in these threats, and we have no reason to believe there is a threat for our district or any of our schools".
CPS encourages staff, students and parents to report any threats or unusual behavior to school administrators and law enforcement, Baumstark wrote in an email.
"The safety and security of our buildings is of utmost importance. Any threats will be fully investigated, and students making threats on social media or elsewhere will be held accountable," Baumstark wrote.
TikTok's communications team said Friday that an exhaustive search of its platform turned up no specific threats. The company said it is working with law enforcement and removing "alarmist warnings" about the possibility of school violence.
Titania Jordan, a media safety expert, says parents should be cautious when giving their children a device.
"You need to be having multiple conversations with your children and you need to be monitoring their social media interactions," Jordan said.
Jordan also offered a strong message for anyone considering taking on a potentially harmful TikTok challenge.
"If you are making threats online or perpetrating acts of violence or threats of violence online you could potentially be legally responsible for those actions," Jordan said.
Schools across the country are taking action after the viral trend.
According to ABC Action News, some Philadelphia-area schools are closing. On Thursday the Southeast Delco School District announced it will be closed on Friday.
Fox News reports that in Wisconsin the Waukesha School District sent a letter to parents, "asking you to discuss this with your children.
"It's really fascinating how much power now lives in children's hands so much so that they can disrupt an entire nation and the piece of mind that we have when we send our kids to school", Jordan said.