Burlington police and school officials have determined that purported threats of violence in schools circulating on social media are not credible.
Burlington Area School District officials said Thursday that a staff member learned Wednesday about 9:30 p.m. of a possible threat of violence to supposedly to occur Thursday, Dec. 16, at school.
“In collaboration with the City of Burlington Police Department, school officials initiated an immediate investigation into the validity of the rumors,” BASD spokesperson Julie Thomas said Thursday in a news release. “Law enforcement has determined this was not a viable threat and it was safe to attend school on Dec. 16.”
It turned out the threat causing the greatest concern originated in Rhode Island and was coincidently posted by a person with the same name as a Burlington student, according to Superintendent Stephen Plank.
Plank, in a letter to parents of district students, also addressed a general threat of violence for “every school in the USA, even elementary” to occur on Friday, Dec. 17. That post, which has circulated on TikTok, a video-based social media platform popular with teens and young adults, did not originate locally and appears to be circulating nationally.
However, Plank wrote, “While we do not believe the threat to be credible, we are closely monitoring the situation and taking it seriously.”
The superintendent cautioned people to verify the authenticity of social media posts before forwarding them. He also invited students and parents to report any concerning posts to BASD staff or local police.
“While no specific threats have been made against the BASD schools, teachers or students, we want to be proactive in asking our families to help us prevent someone from making a serious mistake,” Plank wrote. “BASD can not tolerate any threats of violence made against any member of our school community. Any threat is taken seriously and is reported to local law enforcement.”
The full text of a letter sent to families of students in the district is below:

December 16, 2021

Dear BASD Families,

In the past 48 hours, the Burlington Area School District (BASD) has dealt with two disturbing situations that are a direct result of social media.

Here are the two examples we faced:

  1. Wednesday, December 15 – Rampant sharing of post originating from Rhode Island
  2. Days leading up to December 17 – Nationwide TikTok threat challenge

#1 – By now most everyone is aware of a rumored threat that staff first learned of at approximately 9:30 PM on Wednesday, December 15. The BASD staff would like to thank the many parents and students that reached out to report the rumor circulated on social media. The administration immediately began collaborating with the City of Burlington Police Department, who were able to quickly determine that there was no viable threat and that it would be safe to attend school on December 16.

Within 12-hours, BASD administration and Burlington Police Department were able to identify the post’s originator, who resides in the state of Rhode Island. The original post/incident was completely outside of BASD and coincidentally involved a student with the same name as a BASD student.

#2 – We have also become aware of a troubling post that has been widely shared this week on the social media platform TikTok. The post refers to a threat to school safety “for every school in the USA, even elementary,” on Friday, December 17. The post appears to be part of a national TikTok trend and did not originate in our school district. 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.

While no specific threats have been made against the BASD schools, teachers or students, we want to be proactive in asking our families to help us prevent someone from making a serious mistake. BASD can not tolerate any threats of violence made against any member of our school community. Any threat is taken seriously and is reported to local law enforcement.

Next Steps for Families
Please take a few moments to talk to your children and express the severity of these issues and the impact social media plays. We also want to ask that if our students or families see a threat on social media or elsewhere, to report to law enforcement or a district staff member immediately. You are also welcome to use the “tip line” on the Burlington Area SD app (link) at any time. These tips go directly to the police department. The best practice is always, if you see something, say something to an adult.

These recent situations serve as good examples of the impact of forwarding and sharing information with others prior to having factual knowledge. It is important to not add to the situation by circulating rumors. 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.

Finally, we’d like to once again express our appreciation for the community’s support of the 2018 referendum, which included significant work to address school safety. As a result, we’ve been able to move all offices to the front of the buildings and ensure that all entrances are secure. We’ve also completely overhauled our visitor protocols and have increased our security surveillance and related systems.

When there is cause for concern, the Burlington Area School District takes it seriously. We are always here for your student and for your family. If you need assistance of any sort, please reach out to your teachers, school counselor, school social worker, or principal.

Thank you for partnering with us to keep all of our students, staff, and community members healthy, happy, and safe.

Sincerely,

Stephen T. Plank
Superintendent