Area schools will have increased police presence as social media posts threaten gun violence Friday

Published on Thursday, 16 December 2021 16:42

@NewBritHerald | @TheBristolPress

Social media posts nationwide referring to threats of gun violence in schools, specifically for Friday, has area school districts working with local police departments to make sure students remain safe.

The post originated on TikTok and says the threats are “for every school in the USA, even elementary.”

There was an additional police presence at Southington High School Thursday following the discovery of a threatening letter earlier this week. However, Steve Madancy, Southington superintendent of schools, said the TikTok threat is not related to the threat at Southington High School.

He did say the school will remain on alert Friday in response to this new threat.

“I was just talking to the police department,” Madancy said. “It's a national trend. The state police don't believe that there is any credibility to it as no threats were made against Connecticut schools directly. But we will have an added police presence tomorrow as well.”

The Consolidated School District of New Britain said Thursday it will work with the New Britain Police Department to respond after being made aware of threats regarding school gun violence.

“We are in close communication with the New Britain Police Department and have been monitoring social media activity,” Superintendent Nancy Sarra said. “As a precautionary measure, there will be an increased police presence at and around our schools (Friday) to ensure the safety of our students and staff.”

Sarra asked parents to speak with their child if they are aware of any known threats and urged parents to reach out to the New Britain Police Department at 860-826-3000 or contact school administrators.

“Please talk with your children about the importance of responsible behavior while using social media, as well as the importance of notifying you, school administration, or the police when such threats are made,” Sarra said. “If you have any immediate concerns, please contact your child’s school or the New Britain Police Department.”

Bristol schools are also working with the city’s police department.

“Bristol Public Schools was made aware of nationwide social media posts that threaten violence in schools on Friday, December 17, 2021,” Superintendent Catherine M. Carbone wrote in a statement. “We shared this information with our families and staff and will continue to work with the Bristol Police Department to monitor the situation. These types of potential threats cause undue stress and anxiety for our students, families and staff. We ask that parents and guardians remain vigilant of their children’s social media activity.”

Bristol Police Chief Brian Gould said local authorities are aware and continuing to monitor any and all situations that may arise.

“The safety of our schools throughout Bristol are a top priority for the Bristol Police Department,” he said. “Though we are not aware of any specific threats to Bristol schools, there will be an increased police presence at our schools.”

Plainville Superintendent of Schools Steve LePage said he became aware of the trend and sent an email to local parents on Tuesday. He said he would be sending out another message later in the day Thursday.

“I sent a message asking parents to have a conversation with their kids and explain that, even if they think it is just a prank, it could have serious consequences,” he said. “We haven't had any kind of threats happen in Plainville and hopefully we don't. I wanted to communicate that we usually catch whoever makes these kinds of threats and consequences could include legal action and even expulsion.”

LePage added both the Middle School of Plainville and Plainville High School have school resource officers to protect the schools.

Newington Superintendent of Schools Dr. Maureen Brummett addressed the issue in a letter to parents, staff and Board of Education members Thursday.

“The post appears to be part of a national TikTok trend and did not originate in our school district,” she said in the letter. "We have heard reports from other districts that the same post is circulating in their schools. While the State of Connecticut Intelligence Center does not believe the threat to be credible, we are closely monitoring the situation and taking it seriously.”

Brummett went on to share there will be an increased police presence around all schools during arrival and dismissal on Friday.

“This situation serves as a good example of why it is important to avoid sharing posts online that refer to school safety threats,” she said. "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 activities and speak with them about proper behavior online.”

Brian Falcone, Plymouth superintendent of schools, said he was sending a letter to parents about the situation Thursday afternoon.

“We're trying to inform parents to speak to their children and tell them to make the right decisions,” he said Thursday. “As a district, we take all threats seriously and we are watching this closely."

Falcone said there will be a police presence at local schools.

Berlin Superintendent Brian Benigni sent out a letter to parents about the situation.

“I want to assure you that there have been no credible threats made to any of the Berlin Public Schools and we do not anticipate any concerns on Friday,” he wrote to parents. “All students and parents need to be aware that any promotion or posting of any type of threat related to the Tik Tok posting trend that is made by a student, whether verbal, written, or on any social media platform, will result in school administration notifying the Berlin Police Department.”

Connecticut Education Association President Kate Dias said despite the fact these challenges are concerning, thankfully many educators and students are becoming better prepared to handle such concerns.

“I think we have some resources to draw on and relationships with students to pay attention to,” she said. “We know that a lot of our students get very concerned about these things and will openly share ‘hey, I’m concerned because.’ We have a network of conversations that need to happen and we need to maintain our vigilance as far as following through and making sure if we hear something that doesn’t sit well, we follow through with our administration.

“Much of what families, students and those in educational institutions should consider boils down to the old saying ‘if you see something, say something.’”

Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol, Plainville, Plymouth, Southington Herald, Terryville on Thursday, 16 December 2021 16:42. Updated: Thursday, 16 December 2021 16:44.