December 2021 saw the latest TikTok challenge encouraging students to make threats of shootings, bomb threats, and violence against schools. Some schools enhanced security protocols while others canceled classes entirely. Many of the threats were ultimately unverified, but even rumors of potential school violence were enough to incite major panic for parents and put school leaders across the country on high alert.
Though many students see social media challenges as a rite of passage or a way to fit in with their peers, what they may not realize is that students caught participating in challenges to make threats of violence or engage in destructive behaviors face severe consequences—including criminal charges in some cases.
It’s clear that schools must work with parents to inform students of the consequences associated with participating in these dangerous viral challenges. And with the spike in school violence over the last year, every threat should be taken seriously. So, what can schools do now to ensure their students and colleagues remain safe?
First off, schools should monitor social media posts to understand and anticipate which ones may be relevant to them. Additionally, parents should monitor their student’s social media activity on a regular basis. Not only are parents generally unaware of social media trends in a broader sense, but they are also often unaware of what their own child is participating in.
Next, teachers and school personnel need to be hyper-vigilant in observing student behavior. They need to take note of students who are quicker to get angry and need to understand what their triggers are in order to avoid pushing them past their breaking point. We also need to understand that although it may be necessary under certain circumstances, the purpose of threat assessment is not to punish students or send them to jail, but rather provide them with assistance—like mental health support—and prevent situations from escalating.
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