COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
A district in Gasoncade County will be closed Friday and school districts across Mid-Missouri say they’ve been made aware of a trend on social media app TikTok that challenges kids to threaten their schools.
“There is a TikTok challenge working its way across the nation that challenges students/people to make bomb threats or school shooting threats for school on” Friday, the Mexico School District said in a social media message Thursday. “We are aware of the circulation of this challenge and take all threats seriously. Currently, there have been no threats to any of the schools in Mexico.”
The Gasconade County Sheriff’s Office said Gasconade County R-II will close Friday because of the trend.
“Our office will take every threat seriously and students/non-students will face possible legal consequences for making threats. Gasconade County Sheriff’s Office will assist other agencies with an increased presence of law enforcement at our local schools,” Gasconade County Sheriff Scott Eiler wrote in a Facebook post.
Maries County Sheriff Chris Heitman said in a Facebook post that his office was aware of the trend and that while no specific threats had been issued against local schools, extra deputies would be on the lookout Friday.
“Honestly, I do not feel like the school is going to be attacked tomorrow but we want to be prepared just in case,” Heitman said.
Heitman said several parents reached out to him with concern when learning about the trend.
“These kids don’t realize that they’re gonna get caught eventually, and that it is a crime, and its something they could get in trouble for,” Heitman said.
Heitman said often times these threats do not turn out to be credible, but law enforcement will treat them as a potential threat.
“It can be considered a terroristic threat, which is something they can get jail time for,” Heitman said
Columbia Public Schools spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said the district is aware of the trend but has seen no specific threats.
“No specific schools or districts are mentioned in these threats, and we have no reason to believe there is a threat for our district or any of our schools,” the Jefferson City School District said in a message sent to parents and shared with media.
Noelle Gilzow, a teacher for Columbia Public Schools, said this is not the first time a social media trend like this circulated in schools.
“Like there would be a new challenge for each month, all the way through the school year and the next one after the bathroom challenge was to slap a teacher,” Gilzow said.
Gilzow wants students to know this is not something to joke about.
“This is a real problem, it really happens people really die, so I think to make light of it and have it be a challenge and even play around is just egregious,” Gilzow said.
School of the Osage sent an alert to parents saying the district is working with law enforcement.
Officials in districts across the nation have been made aware of the trend and sent out similar messages.
Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Jefferson City was the target of social media threats by students last Friday, the school’s principal said. Principal Shawn Kelsch wrote to parents over the weekend that the students responsible are under police investigation, have been suspended and are being referred for expulsion.