Districts warn of TikTok challenge promoting school violence Friday

School districts across southern Wisconsin are warning about a social media challenge that promotes violence or threats of violence at schools.
Published: Dec. 16, 2021 at 12:40 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 16, 2021 at 10:26 PM CST
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SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. (WMTV) - School districts across southern Wisconsin are warning about a social media challenge that promotes violence or threats of violence at schools across the country on Friday, Dec. 17.

Among the districts that have already sent messages to families were Madison Metropolitan, Sun Prairie Area, Oregon, Deforest Area. The Dane Co. Sheriff’s Office also released its own statement as a “strictly precautionary message” indicating it had not heard of any direct threats in its jurisdiction.

The viral challenge, which has been reported nationwide, does not target any particular school, MMSD’s letter noted. Most messages did not include the nature of the challenge; however, DeForest’s Superintendent Eric Runez described it as instructing people call in bomb threats, school shooting threats, or other similar threats.

Lodi’s District Administrator Vince Breunig said, “It’s very vague and not really specifically to any school, but obviously anytime there’s any mention of things like that we always have to take it seriously and react accordingly.”

Breunig added, “I’m not real nervous at all. I don’t think it’s a credible threat.”

The districts assured parents they were working with local law enforcement agencies and letting them know there may be an increased officer presence at some of the schools.

“The Sheriff’s Office and other local law enforcement agencies are working closely with area school districts to address any concerns or potential threats,” the Sheriff’s Office included in its statement.

In sections of the letters that nearly echoed each other exactly, OSD Superintendent Dr. Leslie Bergstrom and the joint message issued by SPASD Superintendent Brad Saron and Sun Prairie Police Chief Mike Steffes explained that this perceived threat offers a good example of why people should not create or share posts about school safety threats.

“Posts about school safety threats, even if they are not credible threats, cause a great deal of stress and anxiety for our students, families, and staff,” Bergstrom wrote, using phrasing mirrored by SPASD. “We ask our families to monitor their student’s social media activity and speak with them about appropriate behavior online.”

In a sentiment almost certainly shared by school administrators across the U.S., the district administrators urged families to report any concerns they have about threats against schools (Oregon and Sun Prairie’s contact information is listed below).

“All credible threats will be investigated by the district and police department and may lead to criminal charges and/or expulsion,” Saron and Steffes warned.

The Dodge County Sheriff’s Office also stated Thursday that it has been made aware of this TikTok challenge Thursday, but noted there are no known threat to schools in the county at this time. The sheriff’s office wrote that its school districts are taking this seriously and the department “will certainly step up our efforts tomorrow and in the following days.”

“We ask parents to talk to their children about this threat and any others that may emerge in the future,” the sheriff’s office wrote. “Make sure that your children are prepared for any kind of emergency that may occur. Remind them that if there is ever any kind of suspicious activity, that it be reported to a teacher or other authority figures.”

NOTE: Following the publication of this article, NBC15 News has learned of more schools sending similar messages to their students.

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