Extra police presence at several Utah schools following social media threats

Dec 17, 2021, 7:50 AM | Updated: 7:58 am

SALT LAKE CITY — Extra police officers will be at several Utah schools on Friday after threats of violence spread across social media.

The vague, anonymous posts circulating online warned that multiple schools would receive shooting and bomb threats — but several law enforcement agencies across the state have said they have no reason to believe these threats are credible.

“It appears that the main post being circulated is a recycled screenshot of a threat that occurred at another school outside of the state,” a statement from the Granite School District read. “THE SAME POST IS BEING SHARED AND REPOSTED ACROSS THE ENTIRE STATE and does not appear to be directed at any specific school within our district. We take every potential threat very seriously and continue to investigate. Out of an abundance of caution, some of our school locations will have an increased police presence through the remainder of the week.”

This trend landed one Utah student in police custody Thursday after making a threat toward Matheson Junior High in Magna.

Utah student in custody after threat causes ‘major disruption’ at junior high

The school-specific threat was part of the general, statewide threat that was circulating among students all over Utah, according to Granite School District spokesperson Benjamin Horsley.

The student is now in juvenile detention and could face felony charges.

Law enforcement and districts across Utah have issued statements regarding the TikTok trend, asking parents to be aware of their child’s social media activity and reassuring that a higher police presence would be in schools Friday.

“Organizers of the SafeUT mobile tipline have received more than 100 tips statewide about such hoax threats,” read a statement from the Canyons School District. “We have no reason to believe these threats are credible. However, to err on the side of caution and to give peace of mind to students, teachers and parents, we are taking additional precautions today and tomorrow to ensure the safety of students. We have requested an extra police presence at our campuses and asked administrators and staff to be visible in the hallways to provide additional oversight.”

TikTok said it is working with authorities to investigate the original posts and threats.

“We handle even rumored threats with utmost seriousness,” a tweet from the company read, “which is why we’re working with law enforcement to look into warnings about potential violence at schools even though we have not found evidence of such threats originating or spreading via TikTok.”

Horsley said the broader posting appears to be coming from out of state and doesn’t identify any specific school but does use the “GHS” moniker. It shares the widely applicable question, “Is our school next?” It is believed it could have come from Greenwood High in Colorado or Gilroy High in northern California, which canceled classes Friday.

Most Utah districts planned to hold classes as scheduled Friday. The San Juan School District announced Friday would be a virtual day of instruction for all students “in response to developing safety concerns and to ensure the continued safety of students and staff.” In-person instruction will resume on Monday.

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Extra police presence at several Utah schools following social media threats