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Threats an ongoing issue in metro Atlanta schools

School district leaders are on edge in the wake of a new TikTok challenge. Threats at schools in metro Atlanta is an issue many school districts are familiar with.

ATLANTA — Amid the aftermath of a deadly school shooting in Michigan, an emerging social media dare is urging students at schools across the United States to bring weapons to schools. 

Although the latest TikTok challenge prompted educators and school district leaders all over the country to be on high alert this week, this isn't a new worry. School threats across metro Atlanta have been an ongoing issue.

The Forsyth County School District said the school system received two threats to do harm at Lambert High School just within the last two weeks.

Two students, a 15-year-old and a 16-year-old, involved in separate incidents are now both charged with making threats. Authorities did not indicate whether these cases are related to the TikTok challenge.

The Fulton County School District, which is one of the largest school systems in the Peach State, has received 140 threats this school year so far, according to a statement from the school system.

To put that into perspective, students are only about half way through the school year, being on the verge of holiday break. There are only 180 classroom days in a Georgia school year.

The current school year has seen more threats so far than the two academic years prior. During 2019-20, Fulton County Schools garnered a total of 123. In 2020-21, which was the academic calendar most severely impacted by the COVID pandemic, the school system only saw a total of 45 threats.

Leaders with the Fulton County school system said they altered their threat-tracking system starting in Fiscal Year 2021, though, so a direct comparison could be dicey.

"An indirect comparison suggests some increase to date for this school year which appears to align with national trend," a spokesperson with the district told 11Alive.

The district says 108 of those 140 threats in 2021 are categorized as Level 1, meaning there is no evidence of a motive and the evidence of harm is not apparent; 25 in which there was some level of harm and motive, or Level 2; and seven Level 3 threats. 

Level 3 threats are categorized by Fulton County Schools as a threat where there is clear evidence and existing ability to carry out a harmful plan in which a specific person or place is a target, the district's code of conduct states

Elementary schools in the county have received 57 threats, 49 threats at middle schools, and 34 at high schools so far in the 2021-22 school year.

Clayton County Schools reported a much lower number, saying county schools have experienced 14 threats this academic year, with two at elementary schools, three at middle schools, and nine to high schools. About five of those 14 were student-to-student and one was a bomb threat. The last eight were menaces to shoot up schools. 

Though the Clayton County school system announced they've gotten just over a dozen threats, a spokesperson said schools have still seen "far more threats than normal" compared to previous years. The spokesperson told 11Alive the district does not have school threat data to share for academic calendars beforehand.

Right now most metro Atlanta districts are not taking any serious action amid the TikTok challenge. Atlanta Public Schools sent a letter to guardians saying students may see increased security on Friday as they head to class. The DeKalb County School District said metro-area law enforcement agencies will be closely monitoring the situation as the school day continues.

Polk County Schools is the only school district to take drastic measures, going so far as to close schools on Friday in light of the threatening posts circulating online.

Tiktok posted on Twitter that they were handling rumors seriously and they were working with law enforcement to look into the warnings. Officials say it remains unclear where the Tiktok school threats emerged, but it suggested the attacks would occur on December 17th. 

As of Friday afternoon, it appears Tiktok has removed the majority of videos related to the challenge. According to Tiktok's policy for removing videos, they removed anything that involves violent extremism, hateful behavior, and poses harm to a minor's safety among several other guidelines. 

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