CENTRAL TEXAS – Winter Break is officially underway for Central Texas schools, but many were on high alert on Friday.
A national social media challenge was encouraging kids to shoot up their schools. Although the threats did not specifically name Central Texas schools, local districts are warning about the dangers of making them and sharing them online.
“Simply, just don’t do it. Because you are not only putting everyone else in harm, but yourself in harm, as well. Handling a gun is a very serious thing that you have to remember, and it’s not as simple. A lot of mistakes can be made if you don’t know how to handle it properly,” says Cierra Shipley, Public Information Officer for the Waco Police Department.
Thursday night TikTok videos circulated online dedicating Friday, December 17th as a day for students to open fire nationwide. As soon as districts saw the threats, they also took to social media.
Waco ISD posted on Facebook, “We are aware of a recent TikTok challenge that calls for school shootings or the threat of school shootings nationwide. Waco ISD PD has been monitoring the situation and there has not been any chatter about the challenge locally. We remain prepared to act in the event of any crisis and believe that the challenge does not pose a threat in our district. If you have concerns or information to share, please contact your student’s campus. As always, our priority is the safety of all students and staff.”
The Waco ISD Police Department posted, “Regarding the recent national and statewide social media posts reporting that on December 17, 2021 weapons (guns and explosive devices) being brought illegally to schools for harmful reasons, our police department has not received any factual information that would deem this ‘threat’ to be true. Information known is that this is an attempt to encourage students to skip school. With this being said, our agency will follow up on any leads that we receive to either validate or discredit such threats. Our Police Officers and Security Guards will continue to monitor and address any senseless act(s) of violence within the Waco Independent School District. Should anyone attempt to conduct any senseless act(s) of violence within our jurisdiction, appropriate measures will be conducted and the fullest prosecution will be sought. At the end of the day tomorrow, students and staff will begin the Winter Break. We encourage everyone to use this time to relax, rejuvenate, and prepare for school to resume in January 2022. Let’s make 2022 the BEST YEAR YET!!!”
“There are criminal consequences. There are charges that can be brought up against the person who is making these threats and allegations, and those threats vary depending on the specifics of each case. However, they do have criminal consequences,” says Alice Jauregui, Executive Director for Communications for Waco ISD.
Districts are also warning against sharing those threats.
“We do ask that if you see a threat like this, that you do not share it. That just helps to perpetuate the issue,” said Jauregui.
In a letter to parents, Killeen ISD says, “Any Killeen ISD students participating in the sharing or posting of such threats or messages will be disciplined in accordance with the Student Code of Conduct.”
“If they are going to be understanding the severity of what’s going on, maybe they can understand that these threats and these trends aren’t something that should be followed,” Shipley adds.
Districts are encouraging parents to speak to their children about making threats or sharing them. If you see or hear anything suspicious, contact authorities – and remember, you can remain anonymous.