San Juan Co. schools go online after ‘non-functioning explosive device’ found; police investigating Salt Lake Co. bathroom stall threats

Dec 17, 2021, 12:45 PM | Updated: 1:54 pm
FILE: In this photo illustration, the TikTok app is displayed on an Apple iPhone on August 7, 2020 ...
FILE: In this photo illustration, the TikTok app is displayed on an Apple iPhone on August 7, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo Illustration by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
(Photo Illustration by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — Officials with the San Juan School District moved classes online Friday after a suspicious device was found at a school and the Unified Police Department is investigating two threatening messages that were found in bathroom stalls.

Authorities said both situations appear to be related to a recent TikTok challenge that encouraged students to make threats to get out of school on Friday. Vague, anonymous posts circulated online and districts across the state, leading to a heightened police presence at several Utah schools.

San Juan School District Superintendent Ron Nielson said they received a threatening message at one school Thursday afternoon before “a suspicious device appearing to be some type of home-made explosives was found at a second SJSD school.”

Teams from the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office and Navajo Nation Police arrived and determined the device was “non-functional as an explosive” but dangerous in nature.

All classes were moved online to allow for further investigation, and Nielson said the district plans to resume in-person learning on Monday.

“Should anything come to light in our ongoing investigation to require a change of plan, we will again reach out to inform parents and public,” he said.

Officials with the Canyons School District and police are investigating a message that was written on the wall of a bathroom stall at Midvale Middle School.

Doug Perry with the Murray School District said they investigating the image shown below, saying it wasn’t written anywhere in the school but spread on social media after a student added “hillcrest wildnin” as a caption. The image had been circulating across the country ahead of Friday.

Perry said a note was written on a bathroom stall at Riverview Junior High, and they identified the student through security cam footage and a confession. Kristin Reardon with the Murray Police Department said the female student “admitted she did it for attention,” and she will face charges.

Dozens of schools stepped up their security Friday after threats of violence spread across social media.

Canyon Schools District spokesperson Jeff Haney said they’ve seen a rise in situations where students cross the line on social media, and the most recent incidents involved the safety of others.

“It was more or less don’t go, just sit the day out, but it morphed into make a threat to a school on Dec. 17,” Haney said.

Unified police are now investigating after threats were found written inside bathrooms at Midvale Middle School and Hillcrest Middle School this week.

Haney said the district isn’t afraid to prosecute anyone who threatens their staff or students.

“What it does is it creates a lot of fear and we just want this to stop,” he said.

Several Box Elder County schools switched to online learning on Monday while police investigated three potential threats that were ultimately determined to be hoaxes.

Three people were taken into custody after a Snapchat was sent showing a student at Salt Lake City’s West High School with a gun, and another was taken into custody after a threat was made at Magna’s Matheson Junior High School on Thursday.

Officials want to remind people that if you see something, say something.

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San Juan Co. schools go online after ‘non-functioning explosive device’ found; police investigating Salt Lake Co. bathroom stall threats