Public Panic and School Safety
Updated: Mar 17, 2022
Recent school shooting threats made on TikTok and other social media platforms have prompted school officials and authorities across the U.S. to step up security measures.
Law enforcement agencies believe the threats that warned of possible incidents on December 17 and beyond are not credible, but schools in D.C., New York, New Jersey, Chicago, California, Michigan, Atlanta, Maryland, Virginia, Florida, Minnesota and elsewhere have taken precautions including closing for the day or increasing police or security presence.
The threat is rattling students and faculty. Schools are cutting back and locking down, with last month's attack in Michigan renewing fears of shootings.
The US Department of Homeland Security said Friday morning it has no evidence to suggest the claims are credible but encouraged the public to "remain alert."
On Friday afternoon (12/17/21), TikTok said it had begun removing the warnings from its platform as misinformation. TikTok in a statement said, "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 FBI said in a statement to news outlets that it "takes all potential threats seriously and we regularly work with our law enforcement partners to determine the credibility of any threats." Authorities in several cities have warned that students could be disciplined or prosecuted for making threats.
A dozen or more teens were arrested in multiple states for alleged participation in the viral social media trend that stirred school shooting fears across the United States, according to reports and local police. The arrests of male students in Connecticut, California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin came after schools increased security in response to the rumors, which spread like wildfire after the Nov. 30 school shooting in Oxford Township, Michigan, Fox News reported. The boys arrested range in age from 13 to 16, according to local media reports.
A federal law enforcement source, told CNN that authorities worry most that the rapidly unfolding social media narrative could drive a lone offender to carry out an actual attack. The situation is an illustration of the current threat environment in the United States.
The pattern goes beyond social media. Last Thursday (12/16/21), authorities in Franklin, New Jersey charged a 13-year-old student with creating a false alarm after the student allegedly sent a text message threatening violence at school earlier in the week. An investigation concluded that the text message was part of a prank. But one local parent, who requested anonymity to safeguard their child's privacy, said officials' efforts to reassure the public about non-credible threats was itself counterproductive.
Teachers say school shootings and mental health struggles have made this year their hardest yet.
The threat of violence is yet another reminder of the many stresses facing America's educators, who are still struggling with the overwhelming challenges of teaching in a pandemic. Another surge in coronavirus infections — and the looming specter of a return to virtual or hybrid learning — is only adding to teachers' anxiety.
A Plan with a Path
Navigating the school safety ecosystem can be a challenge in the best of times as schools and districts try to piece it all together. Now, schools are working through these issues under a tremendous amount of stress and adversity. Believe it or not, implementing solutions today is actually easier than you might think, and would be welcomed more than you know.
There are three main things that schools and districts need to tackle, they must:
Identify Threat Potential
Schools and districts must clearly and emphatically coordinate with law enforcement and mental health providers in the community to approach safety in a holistic manner. Ideally there are on campus school resource officers to facilitate between the school and local law enforcement as well as mental health services for students and staff. These experts must be involved in accessing individuals and situations along with school officials, as each brings a unique and valuable expertise to the discussion. All must work cohesively together,
The school safety plan must CLEARLY outline how to identify those 'Making Threats' as opposed to those likely to 'Pose a Threat'. Coordinating with subject matter experts noted above allows a diverse opportunity to see perspectives that others might miss.
This is key. Everyone must be aware of what is happening, where it is happening, who it is happening to, and what is being done to correct the issue. Schools and districts must understand that everyone deserves to feel safe in our schools. Communication should not only be approached from al liability perspective, but also a human one. This also includes encouraging communication to be two-way.
These three pillars are necessary and cannot successfully exist with out the others. You can think of these like the legs on a stool. Without one, the stool is unstable and likely to fail. Only addressing one leg of the stool can make the plan ineffective and likely to further erode safety.
Understanding the entirety of need is what the NASCPC is dedicated to achieving. We understand the holistic approach necessary to make schools as safe as humanly possible. We approach each school independently based upon the logistics of that particular location because every school and its dynamics are different. We evaluate and develop actionable plans for schools because there is no one-size-fits-all solution for school safety. However, there are always solutions to achieve the best possible outcomes if planned and coordinated correctly.
Members, we encourage individuals to reach out to us with any questions you may have about your school safety platform (member login required). As a member you will have access to a variety of tools to help you make better decisions for your school and we are always here to answer any questions that may come up as you embark on your journey to make your school the safest it can be.
Additionally, should your school need help with its entire operational plan, we are happy to work with you. Feel free to have your school administrators reach out to us for a free evaluation and consultation. Of note, if you or someone else at your school is a NASCPC member, your school will be offered deep discounts on holistic operational consulting plans.
#WeAreSchoolSafety and we are here for you. Please reach out today.