School Threats Spike Nationally After Michigan Shooting

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Tuesday, December 21, 2021 - 8:19am

Disturbing messages and vague threats on social media are spiking nationwide after the shooting at Michigan's Oxford High School that left four dead and seven seriously injured, reports the Washington Post. At least 60 schools in Michigan closed this month after the Oxford shooting, as did districts in Ohio and Pennsylvania. In a “challenge” last week that swept the social network TikTok, students promoted school shootings supposedly planned for Dec. 17 — for many, the last day of class before winter break. Schools from Washington, D.C., to California closed for the day or added police. More than 150 threats surfaced nationwide in the week after Oxford, said criminologist James Densley of Metropolitan State University, a co-founder of the Violence Project. By comparison, Densley, who tracks news reports, recorded 151 school threats for the entire month of September this year, itself a fivefold increase over the number seen in a typical September.

Every threat sets off alarm bells, putting staffers, parents and students on edge and forcing administrators to make a choice. “I think we have to take every single threat very seriously right now — it doesn’t matter how it might seem innocuous,” said Laurel Thompson, a board member of the School Social Work Association of America (SSWAA) who was involved in the response to the 2018 shooting at Parkland High School in Florida. “We never know which one is going to be the one. We never want to make a mistake.” When ominous rumors spread on TikTok of a possible day of shootings nationwide last Friday, administrators struggled to understand whether they were genuine. Officials in Maryland’s Howard County wrote a message to families of “a new TikTok challenge encouraging students to make school shooting threats to schools” and asked parents to urge their children not to participate. “At this point, there are no credible threats,” the message said. “However, even hoax threats create fear and cause disruption to the school community.”

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