TikTok school violence threats prompts increased police presence at area schools

Photo of Kendra Baker

In response to a national TikTok “challenge” that has led to rumors and threats of violence against U.S. schools on Friday, some local districts plan to have increased police presence on campuses.

New Fairfield, New Milford and Brookfield are among the school districts in Connecticut that will increase police presence, although Connecticut State Police said they have not deemed any threats to be credible.

The rumors of violence come as schools across the state and country have seen a series of hoaxes in recent weeks, prompting some schools to take extra precautions and some even close.

New Fairfield Superintendent Pat Cosentino said New Fairfield Middle School will be among those in the area with an increased police presence after a threatening TikTok video was brought to the attention of school officials Wednesday morning.

“Some of our students saw this and thought that New Fairfield Middle School was being threatened,” Cosentino said.

Although the threat was not against New Fairfield Middle School, she said an increased police presence will be on campus Friday out of an abundance of caution and “for our students’ and staff’s sense of safety.”

State police said the posts typically begin on TikTok and spread in recent days across other social media sites. They say it is possible the threats originated from a TikTok challenge that encouraged students to skip school Friday.

“We handle even rumored threats with utmost seriousness, which is why we’re working with law enforcement to look into warnings about potential violence at schools even though we have not found evidence of such threats originating or spreading via TikTok,” the social media app said Thursday afternoon.

“Any school threat that is made in Connecticut is immediately taken very seriously by law enforcement,” state police said. “If a threat is determined to be a hoax, there will be a thorough investigation and arrests will be made. This could also lead to further consequences within the school district.”

Cosentino said New Fairfield school officials commended students for bringing the video to their attention and urge families to speak to their children “about social media and the importance of letting an adult know when they see something dangerous or inappropriate.”

“We ask that you remind (them) that threats on social media are investigated by the police and are prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” she wrote in a letter to families on Wednesday.

New Milford and Brookfield’s districts have decided to increase police presence at their schools in response to what Brookfield Superintendent John W. Barile describes as the “recent nationwide TikTok message threat.”

Barile said there’s been no mention of Brookfield schools, but the district isn’t taking any chances — all four public schools will have increased police presence Friday as a cautionary measure and to “promote a sense of student, parents and staff safety.”

“Should we be made aware of a credible threat, you will be notified immediately,” Barile wrote in a Thursday morning letter to parents.

New Milford will have increased police presence — not just on Friday, but until the start of winter break.

Although no specific threat has been made against New Milford, Superintendent Alisha DiCorpo said the district takes matters of safety “very seriously” and will have increased police presence at and around all its schools “out of an abundance of caution.”

DiCorpo is urging parents to talk to their children about the importance of “thinking through their social media posts, as well as their statements to others.”

“Social media is a powerful tool that can have a very strong influence,” she said. “We want to help guide students in making good choices and understanding the consequences associated with making bad decisions, including those influenced by social media.”

DiCorpo said the district has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to threats of violence and “any threat that is made against the schools and school district will be met with serious consequences, up to and including expulsion from school and possible legal action for making threats.”

Several threats have been made against area schools in recent weeks — one of which resulted in the arrest of a juvenile, who police say sent threatening emails that caused an early dismissal at Danbury High School two weeks ago.