Across North Texas Thursday, safety concerns were shared by parents, students and school administrators as a wave of school shooting threats circulate nationwide.
A TikTok challenge to make false threats of violence is just the latest online phenomenon to result in real-world disruptions for schools.
Friday, Kaufman High School will be closed out of an “abundance of caution.”
In a statement, the district told NBC5:
This is in response to a threat that was made regarding school violence on December 17th.
The threat we received was anonymous but campus and date-specific to Kaufman HS and December 17th.
This follows a national, viral, TikTok trend affecting many campuses around the country.
There is an ongoing investigation and Kaufman ISD administration is working with Kaufman ISD PD as well as all other local law enforcement entities.
Several other districts sent letters to parents saying they were investigating potential threats.
Grapevine-Colleyville ISD said a threat referencing violence against GHS on December 17 was determined to have been made about another campus out of state, adding there are no threats of violence against any of its campuses.
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This message is intended to proactively inform parents so that you can have conversations with your student ahead of tomorrow. Through our ongoing partnership with police departments in Grapevine, Colleyville and Euless, we will swiftly investigate any possible threat of violence. Not only will threats be investigated thoroughly, but appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.
We will continue to emphasize “see something, say something”, as we believe it is our collective responsibility to ensure the safety of our students and staff. Please encourage your student to bring any and all safety concerns to a trusted adult, either at school or at home. It is only through our collective efforts that we can ensure a safe learning environment for all students.
Carrollton Police took it a step further, issuing a public reminder that starting or spreading false information about school safety threats could result in a hefty fine and jail time.
Still, UTD professor and author of “The Dark Side of Social Media” James Honeycutt said it can be tempting for teens to join in viral challenges on social media.
“It’s a game. These things are seen as entertainment types of games even though they can have very serious consequences,” said Honeycutt.
That’s especially true for the developing adolescent brain.
"What social contagion means is it's transferred amongst numerous users because they feel absolved of responsibility,” said Honeycutt. "It's also called the bandwagon effect. Jump on the bandwagon. That's the appeal."
School psychologist and TWU professor Wendi Johnson said, as teenagers are developing their own identity, they may turn to social media looking for where they fit in society.
"We need to be having those tough conversations. We need to empower the kids so that they know, it's not more important to be seen and heard in those ways,” said Johnson.
She encourages parents to help their children develop a core relationship with at least one adult as early as possible.
“Then they do hear things in the hallway or things that are some of these trends that are really increasing, they know who they can go to. They know who they can talk to. They have these strong relationships with parents and teachers and positive friend groups so that we as a community can step up early,” said Johnson.
Common Sense Media, which rates media and technology for suitability for children, encourages parents to encourage older kids and teens to think through a challenge and potential outcomes. They also suggest acknowledging peer pressure in conversations about online behavior and modeling responsible online habits.
TikTok responded to the threats today on Twitter, saying it's working with law enforcement though it's found no evidence of the threats originating on or spreading through its platform.