Schools across Massachusetts are planning to take precautions on Friday in light of a troubling post that's been shared on social media threatening violence at every school across the country.
FBI's Boston office said Thursday that agents weren't aware of any credible threats to schools in the Bay State, though they encourage residents to remain vigilant and report suspicious activity immediately.
"The FBI takes all potential threats seriously," an FBI Boston spokesperson said in an email to NBC10 Boston Thursday. "We regularly work with our law enforcement partners to determine the credibility of any threats."
Schools across the country are taking precautions over the latest trend; it did not originate in any school district in Massachusetts.
The social media threat seems to have originated on TikTok, where various so-called challenges have gone viral, though with varied impact on real life.
Nevertheless, parents across Massachusetts received messages from their kids' schools Thursday, and Thomas Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, confirmed that various superintendents had been in touch over threats on Thursday.
Many of the schools said that they would be taking precautions, including an increased police presence, despite a lack of any specific threat.
Boston Public Schools sent an email to families Thursday night saying while there is no evidence that the threat is credible, extra security will be added across the district as a precaution. District officials said they have been in contact with the Boston Police Department and are closely monitoring the situation and taking it seriously.
The Dudley and Charlton police departments said they had received reports Wednesday night that there was a Snapchat message circulating among students regarding threats made against the middle schools in those towns.
Dudley police said an investigation shows the threats do not appear to be credible, rather they are a part of the national social media challenge. There will be an increased police presence in all of the Dudley schools as a precaution.
Salem police said they were aware of the nationwide challenge, as well, and while there is not a specific threat to the town, there will also be more officers at the district's schools on Friday.
Northborough police similarly said the department was planning on additional staffing Friday to conduct extra school patrols throughout the day. They stressed that these were general threats about school violence, and they do not believe anyone is at risk.
"We want to stress that there is NO CREDIBILITY to these threats, and the law enforcement community believes that these threats were made to instill fear and anxiety within the school community," Northborough police said on Facebook, adding that anyone who becomes aware of any information that they find concerning should report it immediately.
In Attleboro, Superintendent David Sawyer sent a letter to families Thursday night saying the district was aware of the threat to school safety shared on social media that included elementary schools.
Attleboro police confirmed with regional law enforcement agencies that the threat is neither credible nor specific to Attleboro, Sawyer said.
"Nevertheless, we are closely monitoring the situation and taking it seriously," he said.
Anyone who becomes aware of any potential threat was asked to notify authorities right away. The superintendent also acknowledged that even if the threats are not credible, they can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety for students, families and staff.
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That was a message echoed by child psychologist Ellen Braaten when asked about the effect of such threats on students.
"There are some kids who will take this as a social media challenge and other kids who will respond in very significant ways with depression and anxiety," she said.
To help avoid setbacks, she urged parents to preach consistency: "'We're going to go on with life as usual here at home.' As much as you can make everything the same given this extraordinary circumstance, the better off your child will be."
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Scott, the head of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, noted that the threats come in the context of "an increased amount of vitriol" in society.
"Students are watching the adults and how the adults are behaving and I think that some of this is spilling over into student behavior.”
Security analyst Todd McGhee emphasized that communication between schools and law enforcement remains critical, and that threats must be taken seriously.
"When we see the lack of response, that may embolden any individual that has bad intentions," McGhee said.