BURRILLVILLE/NORTH SMITHFIELD – Many parents in northern Rhode Island said they planned to keep their kids home from school on Friday, Dec. 17 amid an alleged threat on the social media app Tik Tok that reportedly challenged students to commit violent acts.
But school leaders assured families that there have been no threats made specific to local schools, and said they are working with law enforcement to monitor the situation.
The reassurances were issued in reaction to an alleged trend referencing the possibility of shootings or bombings at schools across the country.
In a letter addressed to Bronco families, Supt. Michael Sollitto assured parents that Burrillville school officials are taking the issue seriously.
“The Burrillville Police Department and school administration are aware of the situation and are in communication about how to best address it,” Sollitto wrote.
In North Smithfield, several residents shared images of weapons that appeared to have captions related to town schools with Supt. Michael St. Jean.
“Thank you to the parents, staff, and students who forwarded me the social media image of three guns and a knife with the blurry caption that looked as if it read NSMS or NSHS UR NEXT,” wrote St. Jean in an email to parents. “This image is known to the NSPD. I have been assured that this image has no relation to North Smithfield Schools or any schools in Rhode Island.”
“I certainly appreciated everyone’s concern and caution, but as of this point, there is still no credible threat,” St. Jean wrote. “Of course, we remain watchful. Our SRO’s will be present, and the NSPD will increase their visibility around our schools on Friday.”
Other districts across Rhode Island took similar actions, with a heightened police presence at many area schools.
Still, some parents opted to use extra caution Friday, bringing school attendance down.
“Would be great if they allowed us to choose to have our kids attend remotely tomorrow,” Michelle Lobao wrote on a social media page dedicated to Burrillville issues.
“You can choose to just keep them home,” wrote Desirée Gilbert. “Do what you feel is right for your family. My kid is staying home as many, many others are.”
Despite the national reaction, many reports note that the threats were unconfirmed, and representatives from popular social media app stated, “We have not found evidence of such threats originating or spreading via TikTok.”