North-central Wis. schools respond to broad national threat, classes go on safely

Published: Dec. 17, 2021 at 6:05 PM CST
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(WSAW) - Classes across north-central Wisconsin went on safely Friday, but schools, law enforcement, and parents had an extra headache due to a blanket threat to schools nationally posted on TikTok.

School districts in the north-central region largely decided to notify families about the general threat on Thursday and ultimately decided to keep schools open. That is because each district’s area law enforcement determined the threat was not directed at their particular school or made by anyone locally. However, schools and law enforcement recognized the threat could spark local individuals to act.

“We are in a day and time evidenced by yesterday and all of the calls from community members and students reporting things that may have been a concern and so we had a number of law enforcement agencies responding to these potential threats and concerns and luckily none of them were serious threats,” Wausau Police Chief Ben Bliven said.

He stated that is why they have school resource officers to build relationships with students and learn about potential threats before they happen.

“When we started hearing about the TikTok videos, you know, our school resource officers, they’re on top of things, you know, they’re involved and making sure that our schools are safe on a daily basis. And so, they were, they were working all day long to make sure they knew what was going on, who was going to be at school, they worked with the administration of the school district to try to determine if there were any active threats or concerns locally.”

There were not any local threats in the Wausau School District, but D.C. Everest Senior High issued a note to parents about students reporting two concerning social media posts Thursday. Law enforcement handled those concerns with the individuals who created the posts, which were ultimately found not to be credible threats.

Parents’ decisions about whether to send their kids to school varied and many were conflicted internally.

“It’s just going to take that one kid or that one person that is going to take it serious and take it all of the way.”

Tracy Jacquez a parent of two Wausau students said given that students have acted on previous destructive TikTok challenges, she had concerns.

“I didn’t want to make, like the wrong decision,” she explained. “Probably nothing was going to come out of it. It’s just maybe kids wanting some attention, but then you also have that thought in the back of your mind that, well what if something does happen and you kind of got to make that decision as a parent what you think might be best for your kids.”

Other parents told NewsChannel 7 that they were comfortable sending their kids to school, however, their kids had anxiety around going to school, so they allowed their students to decide. Some said that they felt confident that the schools would not be in session if it was not safe and did not want to encourage people to post threats just to get out of class.

Schools and law enforcement across Wisconsin’s north-central region urged students to tell a trusted adult if they do see something concerning on social media or elsewhere so that issues can be addressed before they happen.

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