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Schools and law enforcement across Montana respond to online rumors of violence

Browning High School
Posted at 3:09 PM, Dec 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-16 20:33:20-05

GREAT FALLS — Rumors of school violence across the nation on Friday, December 17, 2021 that have been circulating on TikTok and other social media sites have prompted a response from school districts and law enforcement across Montana. The challenge allegedly encourages people/students to call threats in to schools or to bring weapons into school.

Although none of the threats have been deemed credible by law enforcement agencies at this point, school districts are aware of the situation, and some have responded with parental notification, increased law enforcement presence, and in some cases, temporary closure.

The Great Falls Police Department is working with the Cascade County Sheriff’s Office, the Great Falls Public School District, and Cascade County rural school districts about the rumors. The GFPD has not received any information of threats directed specifically to schools in Great Falls or Cascade County, and added:

Anyone who has a desire for “15-seconds of fame” are choosing to put themselves and others in danger. Participants may be committing a felony crime and risk tarnishing their future. It is simply not worth the consequences. Any participation in any such threatening or violent behavior will be not taken lightly and there will be swift response by law enforcement and school officials.

The GFPD added: "Parents, please speak to your children. If anyone has direct information regarding this challenge or threats of any nature, please call 911 right now. Do not wait to notify law enforcement. Parents are always encouraged to call the principals of their schools with questions or concerns. Great Falls Public Schools will continue as normally scheduled on Friday, December 17, 2021."

The Blackfeet Tribe decided to close all schools on the reservation on Friday. Tribal Offices will also be closed on Friday "so parents may be home with their children during this time." James McNeely, the tribe's public information officer, also said that tribal leaders and school officials are "working with law enforcement on this situation."

Fort Benton Elementary School said the threat did not originate from local school districts but appears to be part of a national Tik Tok trend. Fort Benton schools have been in contact with the city police and will have an increased police presence in their schools Friday as an added precaution. They added: "Our school staff will lean in and lead our students with a heightened awareness and a strong focus on safety. We plan on having an amazing last day that is full of holiday cheer."

Schools in Billings and Lockwood plan to have increased law enforcement on campus on Friday.

Glacier High School in Kalispell is also taking action due to an online threat, though it it not clear if its response is directly related to the Tik Tok situation. On Thursday, Glacier High School announced a "soft lockdown" for Thursday and Friday.

Hamilton schools have been in contact with police and may increase police presence at schools Friday. Corvallis Superintendent Jon Konen stated in a letter to parents that the district has been in contact with the Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office and "may have an increased police presence in our buildings on Friday as an added precaution." Click here to read more.

The Sheriff's Office says that it is not aware of any direct threats to any school in the county, but are monitoring the situation and ready to respond if needed.

The Musselshell County Sheriff's Office is are not aware of any direct threats to any school in Musselshell County, but deputies will be monitoring the situation closely, maintaining contact with the school district administrators, and be ready to respond should anything take place. All threats of this manner are taken very seriously and individuals engaged in this type of behavior will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

The Police Department, in cooperation with the Anaconda School District, started investigating the threat and there will be a soft lockdown in effect at all Anaconda School District sites. This is being done out of a abundance of caution and as of right now there are no credible threats that are being investigated. Students can move freely between classes, all doors are locked, and all visitors to the school are met at the front door.

We will update you if we get more information.