ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – Schools across the country were on high alert Friday after a threat of violence circulated on TikTok.
The threat put parents and grandparents, like Voner Spencer, on edge.
“It’s a big concern for all of us who have children in schools,” said Spencer.
Roanoke County Police Sgt. Dan Walters said the department heard about the threat Thursday and discovered it had been made across the Commonwealth and the country.
“As far north as I would say, Maine, Ohio. It’s all over the place. It was a very generalized threat,” said Walters. “There was no direct threat, that we saw, to any of our schools in Roanoke County, and for that matter, anywhere in Southwest Virginia, no credible threat to any of our schools or in Southwest Virginia.”
In response, officers stepped up their presence at every school Friday, outside and in the halls.
”It was very welcomed by all who were bringing their kids to school, by all the bus drivers, students, teachers, administration,” said Walters.
Walters said similar social media challenges have surfaced since August.
“Whether it be property damage, assault and battery, small time larcenies, things like that nature, pulling fire alarms,” said Walters.
He said police take every single threat seriously.
“We take any kind of threat seriously, and we make sure that we investigate it properly to ensure the safety of everybody involved,” he said.
But responding to these threats pulls officers from their other responsibilities, stretching short-staffed departments even thinner.
“You’re taking that extra body away from where they need to be on their regular rotation and during the shift,” said Walter. “So that’s one less body to be able to answer calls quickly.”
Walters said police rely on parents and students to be their eyes and ears and said if you see something, say something.
“Do not keep these things down. No matter how minor you think it is,” said Walters. “It may not be minor at all.”