TikTok trend encourages students to make threats, Rapid City schools shut down for the day

TikTok trend closes Rapid City schools.
TikTok trend closes Rapid City schools.(Jeffrey Lindblom)
Published: Dec. 17, 2021 at 6:01 PM MST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - A TikTok trend that has been making rounds across the nation is putting schools on high alert.

It features a photo of a gun and a threatening message, where students are encouraged to put their own school’s name as the possible culprit.

The trend managed to close Rapid City schools Friday.

Empty parking lots are spread throughout Rapid City Schools, because Captain James Johns, Criminal Investigation Division with the Rapid City Police Department, says “early this morning, we received a picture of a post that was out there that indicated there was going to be something at North Middle School. Rapid City has a North Middle School. So, for the safety of the community, we have to track these down and take a look at where they’re coming from. So, we began investigation.”

He said that included who was sharing the post and where they came from, while in communication with the school district in the morning.

“Based on where our investigation was at the time,” Capt. Johns says, “they decided to close the schools for the day.”

He says their investigation led them to the individual who shared the image locally, where “their was no malicious intent on their part. [The individual who shared it was] Making sure the school was aware of it.”

Capt. Johns says using federal and state resources they were able to trace where the threat originated which was, “back to Sioux City Iowa.”

He says they no longer believe it’s a credible threat, and that the anonymity of social media is rooted in situations like this.

“Social media is a multi tentacle monster,” Johns says.

This particular post has been going around being altered to different school names, “and those people are going to be held accountable for those things.”

Like a Douglas School District student who changed the photo to display Douglas High School. In an email sent to Douglas families from the district, they say that student is not only going to have school consequences, but was arrested and is facing criminal charges.

“It’s terrifying. You know, as a teacher and as a mom,” says Lori Riggs, a Special Ed. Teacher at Central High School, “I worry about the safety of the staff and students. School’s should always be a safe place. Parents should never have to worry about sending their kids to school, and kids should never have to worry about their safety.”

It fell on an especially unfortunate day just before Christmas break.

“It’s the most fun day of the year. Holiday parties and everything,” Riggs says, “and the kids that don’t have a warm, exciting Christmas to look forward to... this is kind of our day as teachers to provide them some closure and that we do care about them.”

She says although they’re missing out on that, she’s happy with how things went.

“When it comes down to it,” Riggs says, “they’re missing out on their party, and it is a sad day that way, but it could be so much worse if they didn’t take it seriously.”

She says, unfortunately, she expects more TikTok challenges and the like ahead.

“I think it’s our new normal,” adds Riggs.

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