National TikTok trend result in DPS enacting safety protocols
A letter sent from Dickinson Public Schools Thursday, Dec. 16, updated parents on the national TikTok post circulating online that warned multiple schools would receive shooting and bomb threats on Friday, Dec. 17.
Across the nation, educators announced plans to increase security in response to TikTok posts warning of shooting and bomb threats at schools Friday, Dec. 17, which were not considered valid, according to officials. In response to this national trend, Dickinson Public Schools sent out a letter Thursday evening to families, alerting them of this troubling post and the importance of school safety.
TikTok is a video-focused social networking service owned by a Chinese company that features pranks, stunts, tricks, jokes, dance and entertainment. The platform is highly popular with 13 to 30-year-olds and has gained popularity during the coronavirus pandemic.
Superintendent Marcus Lewton noted in his statement that the post appears to be part of a national TikTok trend and it did not originate in the DPS school district.
“We have heard reports from other districts that the same post is circulating in their schools,” Lewton said, adding, “While we do not believe the threat to be credible and we have not received any threats, we are closely monitoring the situation and taking it seriously.”
The statement from Lewton notified families that DPS has been in contact with the Dickinson Police Department regarding the viral post. He added that the school system may increase police presence in its buildings as an added precaution.
"We met with law enforcement yesterday, and we have not received any direct threats up to this point... The letter was to inform our families that the district is aware of the national TikTok trend. We've met about it, and we have protocols and procedures in place. The letter was more informative than anything," DPS Director of Communications Sarah Trustem said to The Dickinson Press Friday morning.
While many districts do not publish or disclose daily attendance, it is uncertain how many families withheld their children from school on Friday.
"We've been accommodating to all families who chose to keep their students home today, and we will continue to work with students on any learning they missed," Lewton said.
According to U.S. News & World Report , the anonymous social media threats alerted many educators, especially in the aftermath of the Nov. 30 mass shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan that left four students dead and seven injured, including a teacher. On Thursday, schools in Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois and Montana stated that there would be an increased presence of law enforcement due to the nature of the threats.
The posts circulating online warned that multiple schools would receive shooting and bomb threats.
“This situation serves as a good example of why it is important to avoid sharing posts online that refer to school safety threats. Even if they are not credible threats, they can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety for our students, families and staff,” Lewton noted. “We ask our families to monitor their children’s social media activity and speak with them about proper behavior online. If you or your child become aware of any potential threat posted to social media or anywhere else, please notify a school staff member or trusted adult right away.”
In his final remarks, Lewton said he hopes families will work together to “ensure a safe, secure and positive learning environment” for Dickinson students.
"We don't have a lot of control over social media on a national level, but we do have control over the great people working for DPS,” Lewton said to The Press. “We want our families to know we are constantly working to prepare for any scenario.”