NJ students stay home after viral unfounded threats on TikTok, Snapchat
Although online threats about school shootings and bombings for Friday were shown to not be credible, hundreds of students stayed home in many districts.
No specific school or district in New Jersey — or anywhere else — was mentioned in the messages that appeared on TikTok and Snapchat but the state Office of School Prepardeness and Emergency Planning notified districts on Thursday that the threats existed.
School districts across the country reacted to the threats. The New Hampshire Department of Education shared examples of the chilling messages found online.
'This just becomes gasoline on the fire'
One more worry on an already stressful school year
About 500 students stayed home from Mount Olive High School despite an increased police presence, according to Superintendent Robert Zywicki.
"It's an extra level of communication to assure everyone, it takes time from our normal operations that we interface with," Zywicki told New Jersey 101.5 after going to each school in his district.
"We're already compromised by absences due to COVID. It's extremely frustrating, stressful and time-consuming and taking our effort away from instruction because we're handling all these different situations."
Zywicki said even though the threats are national when students share the posts with each other it becomes localized.
"As long as this stuff is going to be allowed on social media it's going to continue to disrupt us. We're entering the third year of the pandemic. Kids and teachers are already stressed out and in a tough mental place from the pandemic. This just becomes gasoline on the fire," Zywicki said.
Offering assurances the threats aren't real
Gov. Phil Murphy addressed the concern on Thursday.
"While there are no known specific threats against New Jersey schools, the safety of our children is our highest priority and we will work closely with law enforcement to monitor the situation and remain prepared," Murphy said on his Twitter account Thursday.
South Brunswick police Chief Raymond Hayducka credited the early reporting of threats in other districts with preventing more serious situations from developing.
"It is because people stepped up and notified the proper authority that several incidents statewide did not end in tragedy. See something, say something," Hayducka said in a statement.
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ