Area school and law enforcement officials responded with alertness and caution to alleged threats that have been circulating on the social media platform TikTok about violence in schools Friday, Dec. 17.
While they report that they have investigated and there are no specific threats to local schools, they remained vigilant to ensure students’ safety. School districts, sheriff’s offices, and police departments across Central Virginia have issued statements about the matter and how they were dealing with it.
On Thursday, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office released a statement saying the department was notified by the Franklin County Public Schools administration of a rumored threat to an unknown school to occur Dec. 17.
The office stated that the origin of this rumor is from a popular social media platform, and after investigation, it had been determined that it did not originate in the local school jurisdiction.
The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and Franklin County Public Schools administration continued to monitor the rumor situation and provided additional security patrols at the schools.
School district officials urged people to refrain from sharing social media posts about rumored, potential or alleged threats involving schools.
Franklin County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Bernice Cobbs released the following statement:
“Franklin County Public Schools has become aware of a troubling post that has been shared widely this week on a social media platform. The post refers to a threat to school safety ‘for every school in the USA, even elementary’ on Friday, December 17.
“We believe that the primary objective is to create a disruption at schools across the country. The post appears to be part of a national social media trend and did not originate in our school district. We have heard reports from other districts that the same post is circulating in their schools.
“While we do not believe the threat to be credible, we are closely monitoring the situation and taking it seriously. Additionally, the district has been in contact with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department and the Rocky Mount Town Police regarding the post.
“This situation serves as a good example of why it is important to avoid sharing posts online that refer to school safety threats. Even if they are not credible threats, they can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety for our students, families, and staff, and hinder law enforcement in investigating the source of these posts. We ask our families to monitor their children’s social media activity and speak with them about proper behavior online.
“If you or your child become aware of any potential threat posted to social media or anywhere else, please notify a school staff member, law enforcement, or a trusted adult right away so that the post may be properly investigated.
“As always, thank you for your partnership as we work to ensure a safe, secure, and positive learning environment for our students.”
Bedford County Public Schools also released a warning.
“We remind all families to be aware of their children’s social media activity. It has been reported in the media that there may be unfounded but potentially worrisome content about schools on TikTok tomorrow,” the school system posted on Thursday. “We are not aware of any specific concerns or threats in any BCPS schools; however, as a precaution and in support of our safety and security plan, the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office will have an increased presence at our schools through the day on Friday, December 17. As always, we encourage parents to monitor their child’s social media activity, and we ask all of our students and families, when you see something, say something through STOPit. Link for safety and security plan: http://bedford.sharpschool.net/.../oper.../safety___security. Link for STOPit: https://appweb.stopitsolutions.com/login/BedfordSchools.
On Friday in an interview, Superintendent of Pittsylvania County Schools, Dr. Mark Jones said, “We sent a message to our families last night. I’ve spoken several times with the Pittsylvania County Sheriff’s Office. We’re going to have extra presence of deputies in close proximity to schools today, and the School Resource Officers have been made aware of the situation.”
Previously, Franklin County Public Schools posted a warning on Dec. 13 for a possible school threat at unknown school in the country that originated from a Snapchat message.
At the time, Cobbs stated the following:
“Dear families and staff members: There was a rumor circulating this morning about a possible school threat at an unknown school in our county. The rumor originated with a generic message that was posted on the Snapchat social media app.
“Upon being notified of the potential threat, our school administration immediately contacted local police, which conducted an investigation. Police determined the original Snapchat message came from New York City and was not a credible threat in Franklin County. We thank our students and parents for sharing this information immediately with the school division.
“We appreciate your support as we work to ensure our students feel completely safe and comfortable in our buildings at all times.”
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