By Isabelle Ravanas, Editor-in-Chief
This week, schools across the country were on high alert following the spread of a TikTok trend encouraging violence in schools on Dec. 17.
Originating in Arizona, “National Shoot Up Your School Day”, a TikTok challenge, encouraged students to shoot up or bomb “every school in the USA, even elementary.” In response, some school districts in states such as Michigan, Washington, and New York kept students home today. However, some school districts kept students in school, calling the creation of the challenge a reason for students to skip school and a hoax.
This threat comes a few weeks after a student shot up Oxford High School in Oxford, MI, leaving four dead and seven others wounded. According to the Center for Homeland Defense and Security, 2021 has seen the highest total number of shooting incidents in K-12 schools to date with 238 not-active shooters and 9 active shooters. Similarly, 2021 has also seen the highest total number of victims with 42 dead, 149 wounded, 17 with minor injuries, and 17 with no injuries.
The Chicagoland area was disrupted on Thursday when Evanston Township High School went into lockdown after two handguns were confiscated from students. It is unclear whether this was connected to the TikTok challenge. Following this incident, and in preparation for Friday, officials from the Niles Police Department, Orlando School District 135, East Maine District 63, North Shore School District, and Barrington came out with statements explaining that though they were aware of the challenge, they found no threats to their specific areas. In a statement, the Glenview Police Department stated that “there is no credible information that this threat is in [any way] related to any school in the State of Illinois”.
Payton, not foreign to devious TikTok trends, responded with safety first. Officer Watkins, a senior security officer at Payton, spoke on the fact that though a random number of students are given security checks on normal days before 8:15, today everyone was. “Payton just decided ‘let’s be safe’”, she said. The effort didn’t go unnoticed; when asked whether he appreciated how Payton handled the situation or not, Carlos Pichardo ‘23 answered “I did because when something like this happens, it’s the best and safest option to take measures [like Payton’s] in order to try to protect the students.” In an email out to the Payton community, though she stated that there was no known connection between the TikTok and the CPS community, Dr. Shabazz reminded everyone that safety is a collective responsibility” and of “the importance of using social media responsibly”.