L.A. schools on alert after threats of campus violence reportedly circulate on TikTok
A nationwide threat of school violence reportedly circulated on the social media platform TikTok has California educators and law enforcement officers on edge, prompting some Los Angeles schools to request enhanced police presence, though there’s no indication the threats are credible.
The anonymous threat reportedly called on students to commit acts of violence on Friday, according to a statement by the National Education Assn., an employee organization that includes teachers and other education professionals.
“The threat, or ‘challenge’ as some have referred to it, has warned against students attending class and does not name a specific school or district,” according to the statement.
TikTok tweeted on Thursday afternoon that it “has not found evidence of such threats originating or spreading via TikTok.”
TikTok spokesperson Jamie Favazza said Friday that the company would continue to search for such content but was concerned that unconfirmed local media reports on the trend “could end up inspiring real-world harm.”
The Los Angeles Police Department said it was not aware of any credible threats to local schools, a message echoed by the Los Angeles office of the FBI in a statement to KABC-TV.
Despite the assurances, schools and law enforcement across the state are on high alert. Just last month, a school shooting in Michigan left four students dead, marking the latest of 32 school shootings this year alone, according to Education Week.
While Los Angeles Unified School District kept its campuses open Friday, others across the U.S. — including one in Northern California — shuttered in an abundance of caution.
No acts of mass violence were reported by Friday afternoon, but an expelled 13-year-old private school student was arrested in Orange County, Fla., for threatening to commit a school shooting during a live video chat with other students, according to the local sheriff’s department.
After students on the chat reported the incident, law enforcement officials followed up and found an airsoft pistol and knives at the boy’s home, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said in a tweet.
Officials with L.A. Unified said they were aware of social media threats, but the threats did not pose a risk to district schools.
“While there is no reason to believe our schools are in any danger, please know we take all such threats very seriously and take any action necessary to ensure the continued safety of our school communities,” interim Deputy Supt. Pedro Salcido wrote in a message to parents.
Salcido added that school administrators would work with staff, as well as local and federal law enforcement “where warranted,” to investigate and address threats.
The teenage suspect in Tuesday’s high school shooting in Michigan is charged as an adult as a fourth student dies.
The LAPD is working with several schools to provide extra patrols where requested, according to Lt. Park, a spokesperson for the department who declined to give his first name because he said his personal information had been published online by malicious actors.
“As of right now, we don’t have any confirmed incidents or any direct threats to any school” in the district, Park said.
Administrators opted to cancel classes Friday in some parts of the country, including districts in Texas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, central New York and Connecticut, as well as at least one school in Northern California’s Santa Clara County.
A high school in Gilroy, which was rocked by a mass shooting at its annual garlic festival in 2019, closed for the day “out of an abundance of caution,” Gilroy police said in an alert.
The Gilroy Police Department later determined that a social media post thought to involve Gilroy High School had actually originated in Los Angeles, according to an updated alert Thursday afternoon.
“The original post, which named a high school with the initials ‘GHS’ was investigated by the Los Angeles School Police Department and determined to be a Los Angeles area high school,” the alert states.
Gilroy police said the threat was determined not to be credible, and a male juvenile was identified as the person responsible for the post.
Social media threats have shuttered individual campuses in the past. In September, a violent threat made on social media to San Francisco State University prompted cancellation of in-person classes and a partial-day lockdown of students who live on campus.
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