Coulee Region school districts lambaste alleged TikTok challenge to threaten schools


Another TikTok challenge — one that is as ill-advised and fraught with peril as many others, in that it urges threatening schools — has ticked off school officials nationwide and in the Coulee Region.

Several administrators in the region, including those in the West Salem, Sparta, Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau, Tomah, Onalaska, Bangor, Holmen and Arcadia school districts, sent letters to staffers parents Thursday acknowledging that they are aware of the TikTok challenge and stressing that it didn’t originate in their districts.

Many of the messages used the same phrases, so they presumably are tied to an overall directive to school officials nationwide.

Basically, the challenge posted on social platforms urges people to call in threats of bombings and shootings to schools Friday.

West Salem Superintendent Ryan Rieber’s missive says his school district “has become aware of a troubling post that has been shared widely this week on the social media platform TikTok. The post refers to a threat to school safety ‘for every school in the USA, even elementary,’ on Friday, December 17.”

“While we do not believe the threat to be credible, we are closely monitoring the situation and taking it seriously,’ Rieber wrote, adding that the district has notified the West Salem Police Department and there may be additional officers in schools Friday as a precaution.

Sparta Area School District Superintendent Amy Van Deuren’s message makes similar points, also noting, “No specific threats have been made against any Sparta Area School District schools, teachers, or students; however, I want to be proactive in asking district families to help us prevent someone from making a serious mistake.”

Like Rieber and officials at other districts, Van Deuren said her district won’t tolerate such incidents.

“It doesn’t matter if it is a joke, a prank, or a challenge,” she wrote. “Any threat of violence could result in serious disciplinary issues that could damage a student’s educational future in the Sparta Area School District.”

Tomah Area School District Administrator Mike Hanson’s message echoed those of other districts, including the common thread among them, “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. We ask our families to monitor their children’s social media activity and speak with them about proper behavior online.”

Along similar lines, Central High School in La Crosse and the La Crosse Police Department are investigating what they described as a “concerning message” found near the school Thursday.

Neither Central nor La Crosse School District officials tied that incident to the TikTok concerns, but Central expects to have a larger police presence Friday.

TikTok is a video-concentrated social networking service that originally was intended to allow patrons to post entertainment videos of songs, dances and pranks. The Chinese company ByteDance owns it.
However, in many cases, people have co-opted the entertainment aspect to advocate dangerous challenges.

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