Virginia schools respond to vague social media threats

Published: Dec. 17, 2021 at 6:12 PM EST
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HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - As many were ready to head out for winter break, school divisions across the county and around the Commonwealth had an increased police presence, all because of vague threats on social media.

The post circulating on TikTok said there would be school shootings or bomb threats on Friday, Dec. 17.

While no specific schools were named, law enforcement and schools around central Virginia worked together to take precautions.

Officials in Richmond, Hanover, Amelia, New Kent, Greensville, Dinwiddie, and Northumberland counties increased law enforcement presence at schools on Friday.

“There are no specific threats to RPS, but out of an abundance of caution, we are partnering with RPD to enhance security tomorrow,” said Superintendent Jason Kamras in a newsletter to parents. “I recognize my sharing this will likely cause additional anxiety tonight, but I felt it was important to communicate our plans, so students and families are not surprised if they see additional officers or other security measures in the morning.”

It’s something school divisions like Henrico decided to wait on notifying parents about after those threats were found not to be associated with any one school.

“We are aware of the TikTok challenges that references violence at schools - it doesn’t mention a specific school or a specific area,” Eileen Cox, with Henrico Schools said. “So in working with our local police department, we found, as of last night, there wasn’t any specific mention of any one of our schools.”

Violent threats through social media are something school divisions say they’ve seen an increase of ever since the school shooting in Michigan.

“Unfortunately, anytime there’s an incident like the school shooting in Michigan, you start to see threats and posts that are concerning at school divisions and individual schools all across the country, so we’re not immune to that,” Cox said.

Cox says they had a handful of incidents at specific schools where families were notified over the last few weeks.

One of those included chatter about a potential school walkout last week. Cox says, fortunately, nothing came of them.

“I think the important takeaway from this TikTok is anytime something like this is done to gain attention or go viral, it has the potential to desensitize people. So, the times we really do need them to be on heightened alert, and we need them to be aware that there’s a concern for their children,” Cox said.

Police ask if you know of any specific school threat to report it to police but avoid sharing vague information on social media.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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