Online trend leads to threats of school violence nationwide

Published: December 17, 2021 7:10 AM EST

A viral threat is circulating across the nation on social media, threatening violence in schools Friday. Officials say the threats are not credible, but parents are still concerned.

It started as a way for kids to get out of school but has mutated into something much more severe, and students will face hefty consequences for making any threat, even if they weren’t being serious.

A trend on TikTok—a social media app featuring pranks, stunts, jokes, dancing and more in the form of short videos —has declared Dec. 17 “National School Threat Day.” Thousands of videos warn of school shooting threats on Friday. Law enforcement agencies in Southwest Florida seem to agree these threats are not credible.

Dave Thomas, a professor in the department of justice studies at Florida Gulf Coast University, says that law enforcement must take action even if they aren’t credible threats.

“They have to respond,” Thomas said. “I know that, in the past, when there’s always a threat, that law enforcement beefs up its response or the security level at the schools, and I think that… the only way is prevention.”

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office and Cape Coral Police Department say they treat these threats seriously. On Friday, you can expect to see more officers and deputies present on school campuses throughout Southwest Florida and much of the US.

“Other kids actually learn that there’s consequences for their actions,” Thomas said. “The current system, as far as the juvenile justice system goes, doesn’t afford law enforcement to kind of provide or have those types of consequences associated with those violations of the law, so it’s much heartier as far as consequences go. But I just don’t think kids really understand and recognize the gravity of that situation, to really look at it very seriously, until it actually happens.”

Thomas also knows parents are concerned, and it’s up to them to decide whether or not to send their child to school Friday. He says if he were deeply worried, he would choose to keep his child home.