JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Several local school districts said they were aware of a TikTok challenge promoting school threats on Friday.
Action News Jax checked in with schools across our area on the issue, many of which said they kept a close eye on the situation.
We did not get any reports from local districts about anyone following through on these threats.
Police said even though this TikTok challenge wasn’t specific to our schools, they treat it as if it originated in our community.
Part of a voicemail parents received from Duval County Public Schools said, “We are calling to let you know we are aware of reports of the troubling posts being shared widely across the nation on TikTok.”
You may have gotten a voicemail like this one from DCPS or another district Thursday night.
Parents and students across northeast Florida, and the whole country, were on edge after a social media trend encouraging school violence on Dec. 17 gained traction on TikTok.
However, parents might be asking what this was all about.
Basically, it was a vague threat that started as a message on the app, warning users of school shootings occurring Friday.
We searched TikTok and found several keywords related to the trend, along with hundreds of videos.
Northeast Florida school districts did not take any chances.
“We had communication between all the districts right here in Florida, where all of them shared their information with us. So it wasn’t just Clay County that was seeing these. So I know that even all of northeast Florida, as we communicated, everybody got those,” Clay County Schools Police Chief Kenneth Wagner said.
Clay County school police placed extra officers at schools. Fernandina Beach police also said they placed additional officers at the middle and high schools.
Nassau County Schools sent out a voicemail to parents warning them of the challenge.
St. Johns County Schools issued a similar message.
Clay County school police encourage parents to sit down with their kids and remind them threats are serious.
“We ask students many times, ‘Why did you do this?’ ‘I thought it was a joke.’ Well, it’s not funny and doing things like that have some serious ramifications,” Wagner said.
TikTok has since taken to Twitter and posted that “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.”
The app has made an effort to take down these videos, but the fear of school shootings lingers.
“We have not experienced anything like this before. We thought Facebook was big, Instagram was big, Snapchat. I mean, TikTok is a rapid exponential fire,” clinical and forensic psychologist Justin D’Arienzo said.
D’Arienzo learned of the school-shooting TikTok trend through his own kids.
He said the trend brought about mixed reactions among his four teens, mirroring the responses of many other kids. Some are on edge and others have grown used to the threats, a troubling sign of the times.
“They’ve grown up in this manner, so this does not set them off. They’re not that anxious about it. It’s just another day at school,” D’Arienzo said.
Dr. D’Arienzo said this generation’s students are aware bad things can happen at school;, a place that was considered a safe haven years ago.
“It’s had to make children learn about things that we always have wanted to protect them from,” Child Guidance Center CEO and President Theresa Rulien said.
As the topic of gun threats in our local schools has become more common than ever before, doctors said it’s more important to have that conversation about safety.
“I would not advise saying ‘Don’t worry about it, don’t talk about it,’ Rulien said.
Although it’s a difficult conversation, it’s one that can save lives.
“We have to teach our kids to report that,” D’Arienzo said.
D’Arienzo said social media has a mind of its own, and parents need to step up and make sure they’re aware of what their kids are watching, as an app that’s supposed to be fun can take a dark turn overnight.
©2021 Cox Media Group