Students absent, security present at Mason City High School Friday | Education

Educators on Friday announced plans to beef up security in response to TikTok messages warning of shootings and bomb threats in schools across the country, with officials assuring parents the viral messages were not considered credible.

The social media threats got many educators on edge as they circulated in the wake of a deadly school shooting in Michigan, which was followed by numerous imitation threats against schools elsewhere.

School officials in states such as Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Montana, New York and Pennsylvania said Thursday there would be an increased police presence due to the threats.

Vague and anonymous messages circulating online warned that several schools would receive bombings and threats.

Administrators said local police departments would increase their presence around schools “out of excess of caution.”

Mason City Schools Superintendent Dave Versteeg said the police department provided officers for Mason City High School and all buildings in the district reviewed their security procedures on Friday.

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In this December 17 photo taken by a student and sent to the Globe, a number of overturned chairs can be seen stacked on tables that are usually filled with students. Several students have chosen to stay home after anonymous messages circulating online warned several schools would receive bombings and threats.


“We communicated regularly with school officials and provided additional patrols to school facilities during our patrol shifts,” said Mason City Police Chief Jeff Brinkley. “It’s really important for parents to communicate with their kids about how to properly use social media, how to report unusual or suspicious behavior when they see it, and what to do when they are concerned about the well-being of the child. a classmate or friend. ”

Versteeg said teachers in the district generally understood there was no real threat.

“Each of the buildings has contingency plans for various situations, including an active shooter,” Versteeg said via email. “Our teachers are also excellent at assessing the needs of their students and alerting other professionals such as counselors, social workers and nurses (when the need arises.)

Mason City High School sophomore Maximus Dhabalt said there weren’t many people in his classes, adding that his friends all knew what was going on but it was not covered.

“My parents and I kind of talked about it. Ever since they arrested two people and it’s kind of spread on social media, like all over the United States, we kind of thought it was was anything and we didn’t want to live in fear of some sort of thing, ”Dhabalt said.

Another student said he was “panicking” because no one wanted to come to school on Friday, noting that each of their classes had around a dozen students at most.

MCHS Dec. 17  Mulholland

In second grade, Audra Mulholland talks about going to school on December 17th.

Abby koch

Audra Mulholland, who is also in her second year in high school, said that while the classrooms were much more bare than normal, there was a positive side to it.

“The school was really interesting. There was no one there, one of my classes only had three people, ”Mulholland said. “It was just kind of a chill out day because no one was there.”

Versteeg said high school had about 25% of its students absent on Friday.

“Today, school districts and law enforcement in Iowa collaborated to tackle perceived threats to schools nationwide and posted on social media platforms,” said the division’s deputy principal. Iowa Intelligence Officer Pat Wyamire in a statement Friday afternoon. The Iowa Department of Public Safety monitored the situation throughout the day and worked with school districts and local law enforcement on a small handful of issues. No commendable threat of immediate action was only received by the Intelligence Division. “

In a statement on Twitter, TikTok said it was working with law enforcement to investigate.

“We take even rumored threats very seriously,” the statement said, “which is why we are working with law enforcement to review warnings of potential violence in schools, even though we have no evidence of such threats originating from or spreading through TikTok. “

At least a few districts announced plans to close school buildings on Friday, including Gilroy High School in northern California. Gilroy Police said they found the threats on social media to be unreliable, but school officials said final exams scheduled for Friday, the last day before winter break, would be postponed to January out of prudence.

“Making the decision to cancel classes tomorrow was not easy,” principal Greg Kapaku said in a message to parents.

Michigan State Police, among law enforcement agencies that responded to the messages, said in a statement Thursday that they were not aware of any credible threats.

Internet companies such as TikTok are generally exempt from liability under US law for material that users post to their networks, in large part thanks to the legal “safe harbor” granted to them by Section 230. of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.

“TikTok would be unlikely to be responsible if there was indeed a shooting,” said Jeff Kosseff, who has written a book on Section 230 and teaches cybersecurity law at the US Naval Academy. “Even without 230, there are just a lot of barriers to bringing an action against the medium in which a threat has been posted.”

But Kosseff, who received a warning on Thursday about her daughter’s school district TikTok challenge in Arlington, Va., Said that didn’t mean TikTok couldn’t do something about it.

“They have a lot of flexibility to do the right thing and remove harmful content. I hope they do,” he said.

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