Social media threats against schools have become a ubiquitous feature of this school year. It’s exasperating for teachers, parents, students, and law enforcement.
The latest threat proliferated on TikTok nationwide, and did not specify any particular school or area. However, South Florida schools are seeing increased law enforcement presence across both Broward and Miami-Dade counties in light of the social media threats, with the most recent one inciting violence in schools on Friday, Dec. 17.
While the threats appear to have circulated widely on social media platforms, law enforcement agencies and schools have seen no actual credible threats. But school officials are sounding the alarm in the interest of student safety and learning.
“America’s education system is under attack right now, we are under attack by a social media platform that will not intervene when it is necessary; just as you cannot go inside an airport and say the word bomb, it should not be allowed on a social media platform for individuals to make threats toward schools,” said Broward County Public Schools’ interim superintendent, Dr. Vickie Cartwright.
She was speaking at a news conference which was called to announce the new contract between the district and the teachers’ union, but the latest social media threat overshadowed everything.
“I’m talking about TikTok. TikTok is not an American-based social media outlet, I’m asking for our federal government at this point in time to intervene, we need help," she said. "I cannot fathom that any other country would allow this type of attack to be occurring on their education system,” Cartwright said.
“It is absolutely baffling to me that this can continue to occur, it is also clear that these threats are hoaxes,” said Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
Carvalho is on the same page as Cartwright, and he pointed out some of the costs of the social media threats.
“We have to take every one of them seriously, and the drain on our resources, the disruption to teaching and learning, the fear that it causes across the community is just unacceptable,” Carvalho said.
Broward Teachers Union president Anna Fusco said the near-constant threats are also a near-constant topic of conversation among teachers.
“It’s really really truly affecting the social-emotional, mental health of our students and all of our employees of Broward County Public Schools because we just really don’t know if it’s going to be played out and that is real,” Fusco said.
As they have said many times over the past two months, the superintendents and law enforcement officials are urging parents to not only monitor their children’s social media use, but also to talk to them about the seriousness of social media threats. They are not jokes, they are second-degree felonies, and the kids who make them usually are caught, expelled from school, and face severe charges in the criminal justice system.