Dec. 17 (UPI) — A school district in Missouri canceled classes Friday out of concern over threats believed to be circulating on social media platforms — a precautionary step taken by several districts nationwide in the two weeks since four students were killed in a Michigan high school shooting.
The Gasconade County R-II School District, based in Owensville, Mo., announced the closures on Thursday after authorities said they found a social media “challenge” that calls for users to call in bomb threats and shooting threats at schools in several states.
“All extracurricular activities on campus have been canceled. … The school will not be in session [Friday],” the district said in a message posted to Facebook.
Law enforcement agencies in Missouri said they did not know if there were any specific and credible threats.
“Honestly, I do not feel like the school is going to be attacked tomorrow, but we want to be prepared just in case,” Maries County Sheriff Chris Heitman told KMIZ-TV, adding that there will be extra deputies on alert around schools in the Gasconade district.
TikTok said Friday it had found no such threats on its platform.
“We’ve exhaustively searched for content that promotes violence at schools today, but have still found nothing,” the platform tweeted. What we find are videos discussing this rumor and warning others to stay safe.”
Various threats against schools in the United States have been reported since four students were shot dead at Oxford High School in Oxford, Mich., on Nov. 30. Ethan Crumbley, a 15-year-old student at the school, was arrested; police say he used a pistol his father had bought for him three days earlier in the shooting.
Crumbley’s parents have also been charged.
Authorities said Crumbley had indicated on his social media accounts that he was planning a violent event at Oxford High School. The threats were so overt that they prompted some Oxford students to stay home on the day of the shooting.
Some have criticized Oxford school officials for not taking more action to keep Crumbley out of school. Administrators had met with his parents the day of the attack over concerns about his behavior and violent sketches that he made in class.
Earlier this week, the school district in Oxford took the unusual step of closing all of its schools after threats that it considered credible appeared on social media. A day earlier, more than 10,000 people signed a petition asking for classes to be canceled in the nearby West Bloomfield district.
In Florida, districts in Miami-Dade and Broward counties said they have increased security patrols at schools due to threats found online.
A 13-year-old girl was arrested in Miami-Dade County on Thursday for posting threats against nearly a dozen schools on her Instagram account. She faces 10 felony counts.
Several districts in the Chicago area also increased security at their schools on Friday after a threat appeared online. Police said it warned of shooting and bomb threats at schools on Friday. Investigators later determined that they were not credible.
In California, police in Corona said they arrested a 14-year-old boy in connection with a threat at a middle school on Wednesday. Authorities there also increased security at the schools.
“The student that made the threats acted alone and nothing suggests the involvement of others,” Corona Police said in a statement.