Valley schools see drop in attendance following TikTok threats

Published: Dec. 17, 2021 at 6:43 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Schools in the Valley beefed up their law enforcement presence on Friday in response to a TikTok challenge across the nation that encouraged children to bring guns and make threats to schools.

Local law enforcement say none of the threats were found to be credible, but many schools still saw a big dip in attendance.

While there were no specific threats made to county schools, Rockingham County still saw a noticeable decrease in attendance, especially at the high school level.

Rockingham County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Oskar Scheikl says the absentee rate in most county high schools was 10 to 15 percent, with the exception of East Rock High School in Elkton where less than half of the student body was in attendance.

“This is the most negative outcome, students not being in schools, our schools are safe places and when all of a sudden across the division you may have 1,000 students total not attending school, that’s not helpful to those students and families and is disruptive to everyone,” said Dr. Scheikl.

Scheikl asks parents to talk with their children about what is and isn’t appropriate to share on social media.

“It was a challenge to threaten schools and it’s disturbing, you can only imagine the number of hours that took up today, how much instructional time was lost because of students and families being afraid,” he said.

This isn’t the first time Rockingham County Schools have faced problems related to TikTok challenges, earlier this year a challenge encouraged students to destroy school property.

“It’s one of the darkest sides of social media, there are so many benefits to being able to communicate across the globe instantly, but this is one of those areas where I just shake my head and say this has to stop,” said Dr. Scheikl.

Scheikl adds that the disruptions created by the social media platform go beyond just putting teachers a day behind in their lesson planning.

“They create ripple effects, it’s not just about that one day that students aren’t in school, it creates long term effects and increases anxiety, at a time when we already see increased anxiety in schools,” he said.

Elsewhere in the Valley, Harrisonburg City Public Schools saw a 16 percent absentee rate across the division, Augusta County Public Schools saw an 18 percent absentee rate, Waynesboro Public Schools saw a 22.5 percent absentee rate and Staunton City Schools saw a 25 percent absentee rate.

Page County Schools had the highest absentee rate in the Valley with 30 percent of students across the division missing school. The division notes that some of those absences were due to positive cases of COVID-19.

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