Worthington Independent School District 518 Superintendent John Landgaard issued a statement Thursday regarding a post warning of widespread school violence that was shared widely this week on the social media platform TikTok. Langaard noted the post refers to a threat to school safety “for every school in the USA, even elementary,” on Friday, Dec. 17.
“The post appears to be part of a national TikTok trend and did not originate in our school district,” Landgaard wrote. “We have heard reports from other districts that the same post is circulating in their schools. While we do not believe the threat to be credible, we are closely monitoring the situation and taking it seriously.”
Landgaard added that the school district has been in contact with the Worthington Police Department regarding the post. “We may have an increased police presence in our buildings on Friday as an added precaution,” Landgaard wrote.
Added Landgaard: “This situation serves as a good example of why it is important to avoid sharing posts online that refer to school safety threats. Even if they are not credible threats, they can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety for our students, families and staff. We ask our families to monitor their children’s social media activity and speak with them about proper behavior online.”
Landgaard asks anyone who becomes aware of any potential threat to notify a school staff member or trusted adult right away.
District 518 wasn’t alone in calling attention to the warning of school violence. A letter to member school families and staff from northwest Iowa’s Siouxland Conference – which includes Central Lyon, George-Little Rock, Okoboji Pioneers, Sheldon, Sibley-Ocheyedan and others – also notified recipients about the threat.
“Our school districts recently learned of an anonymous, nationwide threat against schools that is being shared on social media outlets such as TikTok,” the letter begins. “The general threat toward all U.S. schools declares Friday, Dec. 17, as ‘American School Shooting Day.’”
The letter adds: “We have partnered with local law enforcement to vigilantly investigate whether there are any local connections to these social media posts. At this time, law enforcement has not acquired any evidence that would deem these threats as credible in our area. Out of an abundance of caution, our schools will be in close contact with law enforcement throughout the day on Friday.”
Sibley-Ocheyedan Community Schools Superintendent James Craig sent out a notification letter, as well.
“Your administration was in contact with Osceola County Sheriff Kevin Wollmuth, deputies and the Iowa State Patrol overnight to investigate social media conversations brought to our attention,” Craig wrote. “I commend those who knew about conversations on social media yesterday evening and shared those with the administration. See something, say something worked very well. The investigation did not produce a credible threat and we are continuing with school as normal today. We will continue to be in contact with the sheriff's office as needed throughout the day. The safety of students and staff is our number one priority, and we continue to appreciate any information that helps us maintain that safety.”