SALT LAKE CITY — Due to unproven online shooting threats originating on the popular app TikTok, schools around Utah and the country are strengthening security.
A specific threat circulating on the app and being screen recorded and shared to other social media platforms is declaring Friday as "American school shooting day." And it's impacting schools from coast to coast.
Police departments around Utah are aware of the trending posts but no credible threats have been confirmed. And at this time, most Utah schools, with the exception of the San Juan School District who announced they will go virtual, are planning to operate as normal on Friday. But, officials from most schools in the state have said their campuses will have increased security.
Additionally, law enforcement officials and prosecutors have made it clear that students who make threats will be prosecuted and sent to jail.
One student was taken into custody in connection to a threat made against Matheson Jr. High School in Magna school on Thursday.
While school district officials say the threats of violence have been investigated and deemed to be not credible, the stress on teachers, staff and other students is very real. In particular the individuals mentioned in the threat involving Matheson junior high teachers.
"We had specific names of employees, of students, a date, a time and it’s part of this whole TikTock phenomenon that’s going on," said Brad Asay, President of the American Federation of Teachers in Utah. "That doesn’t excuse it, it’s credible! Real life effects, this teacher doesn’t know if she wants to go back, she doesn’t know if the student is going to be back in her classroom.”
Asay said he spent a lot of time on the phone with that one teacher in particular yesterday and said she may wind up walking away from a job she loves because of all this.
Utah schools are not alone. In metro Detroit nearly 90 kids were arrested for making threats on Thursday. And similar threats have been investigated in nearly all 50 states. So far, officials have found no credibility to them.
Several school and law enforcement officials around the nation, including in Utah, have expressed the belief that the new viral trend was started as a way for students to get out of class on Friday.
Despite increased security and law enforcement presence at most Utah schools, some parents understandably plan to keep their kids home on Friday.
Authorities are urging parents to monitor their kids social media use more closely, and not to re-post or share images of the threats on other social media. If people have additional information they should report it directly to law enforcement.