North country schools warn parents, take precautions after TikTok ‘challenge’
WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Schools across the country - including schools in northern New York - warned parents and stepped up security precautions Friday in the wake of a ‘challenge’ on the social media app TikTok promoting violence.
None of the threats nationwide appeared to be credible, officials said Friday.
Still, in Watertown, a quarter of the students at Case Middle School stayed home.
Officials believe it was because of the TikTok post encouraging students to make bomb and shooting threats.
Several districts responded to the trending scheme by sending letters home and keeping school resource officers on high alert Friday.
“We do a lot of stuff to be proactive and we take the rumors seriously and a lot of the students know we don’t tolerate this stuff,” said Shane Ryan, a Watertown police officer assigned to the city schools.
Friday’s TikTok trend is not the first of its kind. Earlier this year, the “Devious Licks” Challenge encouraged students to steal and destroy school property. Another challenge dared them to slap teachers.
To flip the script on the idea of doing bad deeds for attention, schools are challenging kids to do good deeds for attention.
“It’s a kindness challenge. With that, kids can go do great things to promote kindness in the north country and submit it, take a picture,” said Patti LaBarr, Watertown Schools Superintendent.
Students who record the most acts of kindness get to be guest DJs on the Border 106.7 radio station.
“If you want attention, I understand that. But lets figure out a way to give our kids the attention they need, but in a positive way that’s not harmful to themselves or someone else,” LaBarr said.
And when positive reinforcement isn’t enough, north country state senator Joe Griffo is pushing for a bill that would criminalize these types of mass threats.
If the bill is passed, those 18 and older would be charged with a felony for such threats. Those under 18, or still in school, would be fined and serve a 10 day sentence at a juvenile detention facility.
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