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Arizona schools, law enforcement warn of school threat TikTok 'challenge'

Arizona officials say they are aware of the disturbing challenge and have not identified any credible threats to local schools but are being proactive.

PHOENIX — Anonymous school threats on social media are prompting police departments across the country, including Arizona, to plan for extra patrols Friday. They were clear to note there are no credible threats specific to Arizona schools.

School districts are getting involved, too, after the threats have apparently been shared on TikTok in a so-called "challenge."

“I just think it’s kind of scary," said Eduardo Treto who has children in Phoenix's Madison School District. “I really believe that social media is getting out of hand.”

Madison, along with several other school districts in the state, sent out emails to parents Thursday informing them about the social media messages threatening gun violence at schools specifically on Friday, December 17.

Credit: 12 News

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“I was unaware of that TikTok until I got that notice which made me be able to talk to my daughter about it," Madison parent Linda Marquez explained.

“It was very concerning. I definitely thought I should go home and talk to my kids about this email," said Brooke Coty, another Madison parent.

The alleged threats are generic so similar emails are being sent out nationwide. It has prompted law enforcement agencies everywhere to weigh in.

The Mohave County Sheriff's Department said it will beef up its presence at schools.

“It’s a frustration for us in law enforcement because now we are going to have to modify resources on some anonymous threat from some creep in his basement who is trying to scare the public," Mohave County Sheriff Doug Schuster explained.

Schuster says if anyone making a threat is caught, the consequences are harsh.

“Well they would be immediately arrested and they would be facing significant felony charges. That’s a terrorism threat," Schuster said.

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Other law enforcement agencies acknowledge the "challenge"

  • The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office released the following statement:

"Although we have not recently received a specific threat to any schools within our jurisdiction, we remain vigilant while working closely with schools within our jurisdiction as well as our local and national law enforcement partners to ensure the safety of our schools and community."

  • Phoenix PD also acknowledged the "challenge" in a statement:

"We take these threats seriously, and our primary goal is always the safety and security of our community. We will continue to monitor the situation and act accordingly.

We encourage everyone in our community to contact the police if they see or hear something suspicious. We also urge parents to take this time to speak to their children about the seriousness and resulting consequences of making a threat, and the appropriate use of social media."

  • Scottsdale PD said it would have patrol officers do extra patrols at schools Friday:

"Many schools around the nation have been dealing with a threat of a school shooting occurring on Friday, December 17th stemming from widely shared TikTok postings. Our Criminal Intelligence Unit has reviewed the TikTok postings and does not believe there is a credible threat to any Scottsdale School. We are continuing to monitor TikTok for any additional information.

Our School Resource Officers will be at their assigned schools. Patrol officers will be doing extra patrols at the schools in their beats between calls for service."

  • Mesa PD added it would have up to 20 additional security officers present on Friday.

"We are aware of this nationwide threat; however, we do not know where the threat originated and we have not found the threat to be toward any specific Mesa Schools. School district security is also aware and monitoring the situation. Up to 20 additional security officers will be present tomorrow throughout Mesa Schools for added presence and awareness."

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TikTok responds

TikTok has released a statement saying it takes rumored threats seriously and has not found evidence of these messages originating or spreading on the app.

12 News has asked TikTok representatives how the app is working with law enforcement but has not heard back.

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