SJ School Districts See Lower Attendance Amid National TikTok School Viral Threat

Police were visible on the grounds of area schools on Friday, as authorities remained on high alert amid viral – but vague – threats on social media calling December 17 “National Shooting Day”. ‘school’ and warning against gun violence and bomb threats.

Federal and local law enforcement officials determined the threats were “not credible”, with local law enforcement making it clear that no school in the area faced a specific danger.

But the determination has done little to neutralize anxiety in school communities, where several districts have experienced declines in attendance and parents have been bombarded with school communications and police warnings of national fear. .

On Thursday afternoon, New Jersey public school districts received a notice of anonymous threats against schools running on TikTok and SnapChat.

The New Jersey Department of Education’s Office of School Preparedness and Emergency Planning has contacted district security specialists with all known information about the anonymous online threats.

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As school administrators gathered to create contingency plans and develop communications for its school communities, reports of the TikTok threat spread across news and social media sites, prompting parents to make decisions. : should they keep children at home from school?

TikTok publications circulated nationwide, spurring an increased police presence in schools in New Jersey, Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Montana, New York and Pennsylvania. Schools in California, Minnesota, Missouri and Texas have closed for the day.

In South Jersey, school districts including Camden City, Eastern Camden County Regional, Cherry Hill and Washington Township experienced more blackouts on Friday, although some superintendents blamed the COVID-19 quarantine as postman.

Absences at Eastern Regional were “much higher than normal” this week, Superintendent Robert Cloutier told the Courier Post.

Her neighborhood started and ended the week on high alert.

A student from the East reported a message regarding SnapChat to a trainer on Monday, launching a police investigation. While police determined this was not credible either, attendance on Tuesday was down 25 percent, Cloutier said.

On Friday it was down 20%, he said.

Millville Public Schools reported 30 percent of students absent on Friday, according to spokesperson Megan Finney.

Many students in classrooms lack a visualization of anxiety caused by threats in school.

Keeping children at home, however, is what Cherry Hill Superintendent Joseph Meloche recalled as a parent’s right.

Although his attendance did not drop sharply on Friday, he has heard from parents who have chosen to keep their children at home. They – and their child – were feeling anxious, he said.

“Is there anything we can provide? He asks his parents.

Cherry Hill Schools connect families with mental health services. It’s the first pop-up screen on their school district’s website.

“School continues. Monday will come. Then Tuesday. We want the children to feel comfortable when they get to school.”

Meloche walked the halls of all of its seven district schools on Friday. He was as present as the police.

“There has been a lot of anxiety, a lot of tension over the past couple of days depending on what has come online,” Meloche said Friday night, just as her high school students were being kicked out for the weekend. end, after a safe day at classrooms.

“Children feel it. The staff feel it. The community is feeling it, ”he said.

But during his visits to Cherry Hill School, he saw no evidence of fear as elementary students chased each other into the playground.

“Statistically, the school remains the safest place for a child,” said the superintendent.

District administrators need students to report social media behavior to schools or law enforcement to continue to keep buildings safe.

Washington township schools operate under the motto “Hear something, see something, say something,” said Superintendent Joe Bollendorf.

“What you are trying to do is control these threats as soon as possible, work closely with law enforcement and inform our parents and staff as quickly as possible,” Bollendorf said.

“A good communication network is the key. “

Meloche also encouraged parents to stay calm in the chaos and talk honestly to the children about what is going on.

“The children are well informed and know well what is going on around them,” he added.

“If you have any questions or concerns… Ask the school. Contact directly. “

Carly Q. Romalino is originally from Gloucester County and has been covering southern Jersey since 2008. She is a Rowan University graduate and six-time New Jersey Press Association award winner.

Romalino is based at the Courier Post and covers South Jersey schools and education issues for the Courier Post, the Daily Journal and the Burlington County Times.

She hosts NJ Press Pass, a live social media interview show that delves into what matters to South Jersey residents.

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