CALIFORNIA — A nationwide “challenge” on the social media app TikTok warned of potential school violence Friday, prompting school districts across California to take precautions.
Several school districts sent notices home to families warning of the broad threat of school violence Friday. Many districts increased security; one high school in the Bay Area preemptively canceled school Friday. The Santa Clara County Office of Education, Mt. Diablo, Pleasanton and Livermore Valley Joint Unified school districts all sent out warnings to parents.
The nationwide apparent threat triggered a broad response among law enforcement agencies and school districts, who monitored the situation and calmed fears.
Authorities at the California Department of Education did not respond to Patch calls for comment regarding the precautions taken at the state level.
Multiple law enforcement agencies said they were monitoring reports of the challenge, which encouraged students to threaten gun violence at their schools Friday.
The TikTok challenge came on the heels of the ninth anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and the Michigan school shooting on Nov. 30 that killed four students and injured several others.
Since the Michigan shooting, school threats have spiked, said Aaron Pisarzewicz, deputy chief of police at the Los Angeles Unified School District. District police have responded to about 50 threats since Nov. 30, he said.
Last week, a series of threats prompted investigations and evacuations at several Los Angeles area schools, including Santa Monica, Gardena, Hamilton, Palisades Charter and Fairfax high schools.
Pisarzewicz’s agency has investigated the TikTok threats, which were reposted repeatedly, spurring some hysteria.
“We are aware of a generalized threat,” Pisarzewicz said. “We feel that all of our schools are safe. We have no specific information of threats that impact any LAUSD school at this time.”
District parents should feel safe sending their children to school Friday, Pisarzewicz said.
In the Bay Area, Gilroy High School canceled classes for Friday as a precaution, ABC7 reported. Administrators at the school were already on edge this week because of a widely circulated threat targeting a school identified only as “GHS.” Several California schools with the same initials responded to the threat, which turned out to be aimed at Gardena High School in Los Angeles County.
The Livermore Police Department was one of many police departments investigating the nationwide social media trend.
Extra officers will patrol near local schools, said Livermore police spokesperson Officer Art Rosas.
Police were communicating with school officials and have looked into the matter since Thursday morning. There was no evidence to indicate any of the posts were created by local students, school officials said.
“While we do not believe the threat to be credible, we are closely monitoring the situation and taking it seriously,” Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District leadership said in a memo to families.
The trend originated on TikTok, the video-sharing app that is particularly popular among youth. An image containing an anonymous, vague threat of gun violence was widely circulated.
It’s unclear where the December rumor originated. The Tooele County School District in Utah said the original threat started as a way for students to skip school, but “morphed into something much more disturbing.”
The December challenge was one of several in a string of monthly challenges on the social media platform, according to some news reports.
In September, a challenge called “Devious Licks” encouraged acts of vandalism at schools. To participate in the challenge, students and TikTok users shattered mirrors; stole soap dispensers, fire alarms and football field turf; and clogged toilets, filming the antics to post on TikTok.