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Law enforcement, Bemidji Area Schools respond to nation-wide TikTok threats

Local law enforcement agencies are partnering with Bemidji Area Schools following a viral social media challenge encouraging threats of violence to schools on Friday, according to statements from the Bemidji Police Department and the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office.

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BEMIDJI -- Local law enforcement agencies are partnering with Bemidji Area Schools following a viral social media challenge encouraging threats of violence to schools on Friday, according to statements from the Bemidji Police Department and the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office.

Both agencies posted on Facebook Thursday evening explaining the threats. According to a release from Beltrami County Sheriff Ernie Beitel, law enforcement became aware of an emerging social media trend on TikTok that has advocated for national, widespread school violence on Dec. 17.

The release adds that at this time there are no known or identified threats that have been deemed as credible, the origins of the social media threat remain unknown and there is no evidence to suggest that any violent incidents will occur locally.

"If the BCSO or any of its schools receive any threats, related or otherwise, each will be investigated for its credibility and threat viability," Beitel said in the release. "The BCSO has been in communication with Beltrami County area schools and some school districts have communicated with parents. The BCSO will have extra patrols in our school zones."

Parents were also notified by Bemidji Area Schools Superintendent Tim Lutz around 8:30 p.m. Thursday evening.

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"To continue partnering with parents and caregivers in Bemidji Area Schools, we are raising awareness that the Minnesota Department of Education notified school districts in the state of a national trending message and potential TikTok challenge that encourages threats of violence to schools on Friday, Dec. 17," Lutz said in an email to parents.

The post refers to a threat of school safety “for every school in the USA, even elementary."

"The post appears to be part of a national TikTok trend and did not originate in our school district," Lutz continued. "We have heard reports from other districts that the same post is circulating in their schools. While we do not believe the threat to be credible, we are closely monitoring the situation and taking it seriously.

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

Lutz and law enforcement both stressed that if anyone becomes aware of a potential threat posted to social media or anywhere else, to notify a school staff member, trusted adult or law enforcement right away.

As of 10 p.m. Thursday, no classes were canceled.

"As a parent or guardian, it is your choice whether you choose to send your child to school or not," Beitel said in the release.

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