Home News and Features Despite No Credible Threats, Schools Warned of Potential Violence for Dec. 17

Despite No Credible Threats, Schools Warned of Potential Violence for Dec. 17

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The Vermont Agency of Education alerted school administrators about social media posts about school violence this week,

While state and local school officials say they see no credible threats in Vermont, national warnings of school violence hit home today. Moments before a school shooter drill at Montpelier High School, Principal Renée Devore emailed students and staff about a TikTok social media trend predicting school shootings tomorrow, Friday, Dec. 17.  

Students received the email a few minutes before they started a “school safety” training in which they get trained how to react to school shootings among other topics, confirmed Superintendent Libby Bonesteel in a phone interview late this afternoon. Bonesteel said there was no intended correlation between Devore’s email and the pre-planned safety drill.  

Devore’s email was not sent out to parents. The email to students and staff said:

“Below is a message sent to ALL Vermont schools from the VT Secretary of Education. Before you read it, we want you to know that MHS has not received any threats. We feel school is safe, and we plan to have school tomorrow.”

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Devore then linked to a letter from Vermont’s Secretary of Education, Dan French. In it, French wrote:

“Several states have received (non-credible) information about the potential for school violence on Dec. 17, 2021. The social media (TikTok)-based threats have been presented in a variety of formats. Scroll to the bottom of this email to view examples. 

The Vermont Intelligence Center is contacting the state’s law enforcement agencies to inform them of these social media-based threats. To date, the Vermont Intelligence Center is not aware of any credible threats to schools in Vermont. We do anticipate these TikTok messages will make their way to schools in our state. As always, we encourage schools to contact their local law enforcement agencies if they receive any information about the potential violence.”

The letter then is followed by a series of TikTok screenshots showing teenagers using hashtags such as “#schoolshooter and #schoolshootings” and warning of threats of shootings across the nation on Dec. 17. 

Law enforcement officers do not see a credible threat in the social media posts, said Rob Evans, School Safety Liaison Officer for the state of Vermont. Evans said he was the tactical operations commander during the Essex School shooting in 2006, so he has experience with credible threats. He does not believe this one meets that standard. 

So why send out the email if there is no threat?

“The reason for sending it out is that kids are on TikTok and they’re talking about it,” Bonesteel said. “It does no good to ignore the situation. … Kids are on TikTok and they’re seeing these things.”

Evans spoke to the way that social media can take on a life of its own that “gets oxygen and a fanning of the flames raising the level of anxiety.” 

Evans also said “the Vermont intelligence community were the first ones to let us know of these social media posts of concern,” and “because there is no specificity, and (they are) being shared across the country” there is “no indicator of any potential violence in our schools.”

Evans said the reason for informing school officials about the TikTok messages is “because communities already know about it” and without information from law enforcement and the Agency of Education, then “there’s no dialogue with people like ourselves. We try to send a message that’s consistent, that’s thoughtful and intentional to make sure everyone is getting the same messaging.”

“We expect students to be in school tomorrow. I have no reason to believe that we have any threat whatsoever against our school district,” Bonesteel said.

Devore could not be reached for comment.