Montclair public schools and Montclair State University are keeping an eye on viral rumors warning of school violence nationwide Friday, Dec. 17, but haven’t seen any sign of a credible threat in town, officials say.
The threats, spread through TikTok, Spapchat and other social platforms, claim school shootings are planned for Friday. The claims are widespread and not confined to any one specific community.
Public schools superintendent Jonathan Ponds, in a message to parents, said the district was “vigilantly monitoring the situation,” but not aware of any threat to Montclair Public Schools so far.
“Please know that we are fortunate to have a strong partnership with the police department and have been communicating with them regarding this matter. We have safety protocols established and always keep the safety of our students and staff our first and top priority,” Ponds wrote. “We appreciate your partnership, and ask that if you see or hear anything you report it to your school principal, as we work together to keep students and staff safe.”
Police had an increased presence at Montclair schools Friday, Sgt. Terence Turner said. But no credible threats had been identified in any community in New Jersey, he said.
“We are working with the New Jersey State Police and actively monitoring any and all New Jersey suspicious activity reports from the State Police involving threats or acts of violence directed towards New Jersey School Districts,” he said. “Any information received will immediately be brought to the attention of the Montclair Board of Education and will be investigated to determine its credibility.”
The Montclair University Police Department also said it was aware of no specific, credible threats to the university.
“We recognize that fear is real and as a precaution, we will have an increased police presence within buildings,” it said in a statement to the MSU community. “Messages such as this current one typically cause confusion and heightened anxiety among some members of the community. While such generalized messages are often intended only to achieve this goal, we should not discount the possibility they may motivate persons who are contemplating an act of school violence to attempt to carry out their plan.”
It urged against sharing unsubstantiated social media posts, and reporting any threats to campus police at 973-655-5222.
Montclair Township police can be reached at 911 and 973-744-1234.
Gov. Phil Murphy on Twitter Thursday that state officials were working closely with local law enforcement to monitor the situation.
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.
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) December 16, 2021
TikTok also said via Twitter it was working with law enforcement to look into the warnings. It said it had found posts on its service warning about violence, but not threatening it. But TikTok said it would remove “alarmist warnings” that violate its misinformation policy.
“If we did find promotion of violence on our platform, we’d remove it and report it to law enforcement,” the service said on Twitter.
1/ Update: we've exhaustively searched for content that promotes violence at schools today, but have still found nothing. What we find are videos discussing this rumor and warning others to stay safe.
— TikTokComms (@TikTokComms) December 17, 2021
— Louis C. Hochman