More than a dozen students nationwide have been arrested after making copycat threats attributed to a ‘school shooting TikTok challenge’ following a deadly school massacre in Michigan last month.
The crackdown comes as the FBI is investigating the vile TikTok challenge that dared students to call in threats after 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley shot and killed four people at his high school in Oxford, Michigan.
In Florida, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office arrested three teenagers on Thursday for making bomb threats to schools on social media.
Three of the dozen-plus arrests involved 13-year-old males who shared threats on social media in Naugatuck, Connecticut, Palm Coast, Florida and Frederick, Maryland.
In the city of Miramar, Florida, a 16-year-old male was arrested after being accused of bringing a firearm onto school grounds.
Meanwhile, a 14-year-old was also arrested for making direct threats in Wyoming, according to Fox News.
On Thursday, a juvenile was arrested in Watsonville, California for threats made on Instagram that police believe were related to the TikTok trend, police said.
Pictured: a screenshot taken from the ‘school shooting TikTok challenge,’ which was led to the arrest of over a dozen students nationwide
Pictured: a tweet from the Frisco Police Department in Texas, where authorities arrested seven middle schoolers for making copycat school shooting threats on social media
In Broward County, Florida, the Sheriff’s department there tweeted ‘every violent threat is taken seriously,’ tweet pictured above
Pictured: Aurora Police Department in Colorado tweeted on Friday about a reported incident at West Aurora High School, which was found to be just a threat and not an active incident
Over a dozen students nationwide have been arrested amidst a ‘school shooting TikTok challenge’ after copycat threats following a school massacre in Michigan last month
The news of the arrests come less than three weeks after 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley shot four people and injured seven others at Oxford High School in Michigan
A day later, authorities in Frisco, Texas arrested seven middle schoolers, another juvenile in South Carolina, and two students in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, all for making threats on social media, according to local reports.
The disturbing social media challenge lead many schools around the US to cancel classes on Friday, or bring in additional police officers as a precaution.
School officials in states including Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Montana, New York and Pennsylvania said Thursday there would be an increased police presence because of the threats, even as police agencies have assured parents and students that they have found scant evidence of any credible threats.
‘There is information circulating that today may be a day of attacks on schools. Administration and DC Police are very aware of this and on close watch,’ a message sent to parents by a school in Takoma Park in Washington said.
The Pennsbury School District in Pennsylvania told parents that there would be an increased police presence around school buildings even though they ‘do not believe the threat to be credible.’
TikTok said it was investigating, even as it appeared to distance itself from the video that appeared on its platform.
In Broward County, Florida, the Sheriff’s department there tweeted a video, pictured, showing the dangers of making school shooting threats for students using social media or messaging
A TikTok user by the handle @enigmasoul_ explained that the challenge started as a call for kids to skip school before it turned into something more sinister
‘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,’ the company said in a statement on Twitter.
‘We’ve exhaustively searched for content that promotes violence at schools today, but have still found nothing. What we find are videos discussing this rumor and warning others to stay safe,’ TikTok added.
‘Local authorities, the FBI, and DHS have confirmed there’s no credible threat, so we’re working to remove alarmist warnings that violate our misinformation policy. If we did find promotion of violence on our platform, we’d remove and report it to law enforcement.
‘Media reports have been widespread and based on rumors rather than facts, and we are deeply concerned that the proliferation of local media reports on an alleged trend that has not been found on the platform could end up inspiring real world harm.
The FBI confirmed on Friday it was examining the threat.
TikTok said in a statement on Friday that it has found no evidence of the December 17 school shooting challenge on its platform
‘The FBI takes all potential threats seriously. We regularly work with our law enforcement partners to determine the credibility of any threats,’ it said in a statement.
The social media challenge comes less than three weeks after the fatal school shooting in Michigan, which has led to an uptick in copycat threats.
Prosecutors in Oakland, Wayne, Macomb and Muskegon counties in Michigan have brought charges ranging from threats of terrorism to disturbing the peace against juveniles to make an example out of them and put an end to the wave of copycat threats, reported Detroit Free Press.
‘Parents, please talk to your children,’ Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy implored during a press conference last week. ‘Let them know this is serious. Let them know even if they intend it to be a prank, it isn’t a joke.’
Since November 30, when police say 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley opened fire inside Oakland High School, killing four students, Worthy’s office has charged 38 people in connection with threats.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy in Michigan has charged 38 juveniles in connection with threats against schools
In Macomb County, prosecutors have filed charges against 30 people, and in Oakland County, where the massacre took place, 17 people have been hit with charges, some as young as 11.
In the faraway Muskegon County, 19 students have been charged for allegedly threatening violence against schools.
Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, whose deputies were the first on the scene at the high school after the fatal shooting spree last month, said that his office has investigated nearly 140 copycat threats over the past two weeks.
‘We’d rather check out 1,000 nothings than miss one real deal,’ he added.
The origin of the TikTok challenge daring children to call in threats against schools is not clear, though multiple videos on the app reference ‘December 17’ and school shootings.
‘Prepared to hopefully not get shot tomorrow at school,’ one TikTok user wrote on their video. ‘Basically there was school threats tomorrow, Friday (December 17th) for most schools.’
In a statement Thursday afternoon, TikTok said it was working with law enforcement to look into ‘warnings about potential violence at schools,’ but that it didn’t determine the threats to originate or spread on TikTok.
A TikTok trend reportedly urging students to call in shooting threats at their schools on Friday, December 17 has sent some schools scrambling to cancel classes last minute
Gov. Phil Murphy said ‘there are no known specific threats against New Jersey schools’
The news comes less than three weeks after 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley fatally shot four people and injured seven others at Oxford High School in Michigan.
Little Falls Community Schools in Minnesota; the Gasconade County in Missouri; Gilroy High School in Gilroy, California; and Kaufman High School in Kaufman, Texas all cited the TikTok ‘trend’ or ‘challenge’ when announcing that classes were canceled on Friday, The Verge reports.
At the same time, various school districts have sought to reassure parents that no credible threats exist.
‘Based on law enforcement interviews, Little Falls Community Schools was specifically identified in a TikTok post related to this threat,’ the district said.
‘Therefore, school throughout the district is canceled tomorrow, Friday, December 17.’
In Missouri, the Gasconade County Sheriff’s Office cited ‘posts circulating on social media sites, such as Tik Tok’ before announcing it was closing its schools the next day.
Little Falls Community Schools in Minnesota said it was cancelling classes on Friday after the district was ‘specifically identified in a TikTok post related to this threat’
Little Falls Community Schools in Minnesota will be closed due to the threat
Kaufman High School in Kaufman, Texas said it was canceling classes on Friday after it got a threat in line with the TikTok trend
Owensville High School – Gasconade County is another school closing its doors Friday
On Thursday, Gilroy High said it was closing down schools on Friday after ‘it was determined that a social media post thought to involve Gilroy High School had actually originated out of Los Angeles.’
The post turned out to refer to a school outside of Los Angeles, with the district adding that it was deemed to not be a credible threat,
Meanwhile, Kaufman High in Texas said it got a threat in line with the December 17 trend.
‘The threat did not include a specific time, but was specific to a date: December 17,’ the district said in a letter to parents, according to WFAA.
‘This falls in line with a national TikTok trend threatening to coordinate violence at schools on December 17, 2021.’
On Thursday, a woman on TikTok by the handle @enigmasoul_ updated her followers on the trend.
‘Apparently there’s a TikTok challenge going around. It was originally that kids were supposed to skip school tomorrow, December 17,’ she said.
‘Apparently it turned into – instead of skipping school – you’re supposed to call a school to report a bomb threat or a shooting.’
Some school districts investigated and found nothing to be worried about.
‘Many of our schools are being inundated with parent calls this morning asking about these latest threats and their validity,’ tweeted Florida’s Citrus County School District, according to the New York Post. ‘As of Thursday morning, we have not received any indication of a credible threat to any of our schools.’
Baltimore County Public Schools warned parents and students about the trend, but later said the TikTok threat ‘originated in Arizona and is not credible’
‘Law enforcement agencies have investigated this threat and determined that it originated in Arizona and is not credible,’ Baltimore County Public Schools tweeted.
‘Currently, there have been no threats to any of the schools in Mexico, [Missouri],” the Mexico School District said, according to KMIZ.
‘There have been no local, credible threats,’ Ohio’s Milford Exempted Village School District told parents.
Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey said on Twitter that ‘there are no known specific threats against New Jersey schools.’
In Arizona, the Scottsdale Unified School District said the TikTok threats aren’t credible but that schools are taking extra precautionary measures anyway.
‘You may notice an increased police presence on and around our campuses today and tomorrow,’ the district said, according to WNYW, adding that it ‘takes all threats seriously.’
In upstate New York, the superintendents of the Jamesville-DeWitt School District and the Baldwinsville Central School District said they adding extra security or police presence at their schools on Friday, according to the Syracuse Post-Standard.
The newspaper says that the TikTok challenge labels Friday as ‘National Shoot Up Your School Day’ and encourages students to make threats against their schools.