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Local superintendents issue letters about TikTok challenge encouraging school violence

Education

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IDAHO FALLS — Superintendents of two eastern Idaho school districts are addressing a TikTok challenge that apparently encourages students to make threats about school violence Friday.

Idaho Falls School District 91 Superintendent Jim Shank and Bonneville Joint School District 93 Superintendent Scott Woolstenhulme sent letters to parents Thursday saying there have not been any threats against schools in their district but officials are monitoring the situation.

“I want to let you know we are aware of the situation, and that we are working closely with the Idaho Falls Police Department on this matter,” Shank wrote. “It does not appear there is any mention of specific locations or specific schools or any specific information that links these reported threats to Idaho or Idaho Falls.”

The TikTok challenge reportedly encourages students to make threats of shootings, bomb threats and other violent acts. The threats do not appear to target any specific school but districts across the country are being proactive.

Sgt. Bryan Lovell confirms the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office is aware of the challenge but nothing has happened in relation to it.

“We are working with our school resource officers to evaluate and respond to this situation,” Woolstenhulme wrote in his letter to parents. “Our intent is to be transparent by sharing important information with you, especially when it involves school safety and security. While we understand that this event is only a rumor, we also know that social media can have a significant influence on students.”

Woolstenhulme encouraged parents to “talk with your children about the pressures of social media and the potential consequences of engaging in this type of behavior.”

The last day of school before winter break is Friday and classes are still being held. Parents and students are asked to alert authorities if they learn of any activity that could be problematic.

Here is Shank’s letter to parents:

Dear Parents/Guardians,

You may have seen reports of a TikTok challenge that apparently encourages students to make threats about school violence on Friday, Dec. 17. I want to let you know we are aware of the situation, and that we are working closely with the Idaho Falls Police Department on this matter.

At this time, it does not appear there is any mention of specific locations or specific schools or any specific information that links these reported threats to Idaho or Idaho Falls. We will continue to monitor the situation, coordinate our efforts with IFPD and follow the safety protocols and procedures we follow every day.

If you hear of anything that is concerning, please contact your school and share those concerns immediately. Students also should be aware that there are serious consequences to making threats against schools. Working together, we can ensure our students and staff are safe.

Take care,

Dr. Jim Shank
Superintendent

Here is Woolstenhulme’s letter:

Dear D93 Families,

We have recently learned of a TikTok challenge that reportedly encourages students to make threats of shootings, bomb threats and violence against schools on Friday, December 17.

These threats do not target any specific school but may affect schools across the country, including schools in District 93. The Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office is aware of the social media challenge, and we are working with our school resource officers to evaluate and respond to this situation. There have not been any threats directed toward specific schools in our district as a result of this challenge.

Our intent is to be transparent by sharing important information with you, especially when it involves school safety and security. While we understand that this event is only a rumor, we also know that social media can have a significant influence on students.

As families, we encourage you to talk with your children about the pressures of social media and the potential consequences of engaging in this type of behavior. Your guidance is essential to ensure your student is safe, kind and responsible online, especially outside of school hours when they are most likely to be on social media. This is also a good time to emphasize the importance of sharing information related to the safety of our schools with a principal or other trusted adult immediately. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, which mostly show you content from people you know or follow, Tik Tok has a feed that prioritizes content that is highly engaging, which includes people you do not know. That is why posts like the Tik-Tok challenges become especially viral.

We take threats — including those on social media — seriously. Making threats is a violation of our student code of conduct and students who engage in this behavior will be subject to discipline actions, as well as possible intervention by law enforcement.

If you learn of anything that is concerning on social media or elsewhere, please contact your school principal to share your concerns immediately.

While we know these challenges are out there, we also know that the vast majority of our students do the right thing every day. We are proud of D93 students and grateful that they value their school communities and culture.

Should the TikTok challenge directly impact any of our D93 schools, we will take that threat seriously and work with the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office to ensure the safety and security of our students and staff. Families will be notified if we determine there is a credible threat at one of our schools.

If you or your student have any concerns about safety, those should be shared immediately with any D93 principal, counselor, or School Resource Officer. Information can also be shared through our help site: www.d93.org/GetHelp or by texting @gethelp to 1-855-528-0074.

Thank you again for your support and help and entrusting us with the care of your children. Have a safe and enjoyable Christmas Break with your families.

Sincerely,

Scott Woolstenhulme,
Superintendent

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