Wilton superintendent on TikTok challenge that spurred threat rumors: ‘We take these concerns very seriously’

Wilton Superintendent of Schools Kevin Smith penned a letter to parents Thursday regarding possible threats to schools derived from social media.

Wilton Superintendent of Schools Kevin Smith penned a letter to parents Thursday regarding possible threats to schools derived from social media.

Erik Trautmann / Hearst Connecticut Media

WILTON — Superintendent Kevin Smith wrote a letter to the district Thursday addressing rumors and possible school threats derived from social media.

“We have recently learned of online messaging calling for possible school threats across America on Dec. 17,” Smith wrote. “We are in contact with the Wilton Police Department and they have confirmed that the online posts are nonspecific and repeat broad rumors. We have no information that suggests any credible threats to any specific schools either in Wilton or anywhere else.”

These rumors originated from the social media app TikTok and come after a number of school hoaxes in the state in recent weeks.

TikTok did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment.

“A law enforcement agency in Elko County, NV that has been investigating these rumors has suggested that the rumors may have originated initially as a TikTok challenge to skip school on Dec. 17 and then morphed into a vague school threat,” Smith continued. “We take these concerns very seriously and continue to monitor.”

State Police said Thursday that troopers and the Department of Emergency Services are monitoring a recent trend of social media threats targeting schools. State police said the Connecticut Intelligence Center, which is monitoring the trend, has not identified any specific or credible threats to any Connecticut schools at this time.

One result of this, Smith pointed out, is heightened anxiety for students.

The district encourages students to reach out to a trusted teacher or counselor to “talk through any concerns they have,” Smith wrote. The district’s mental health staff are available for any student who may need support.

“If you have a specific concern regarding your child, please reach out to your child’s school counselor or Kim Zemo,” said Smith. Zemo, the Safe School Climate coordinator can be reached at 203-762-3381 ext. 6219.

“In times of heightened anxiety, it is important to reassure your child that our first priority is to ensure the school is a safe environment and we have many measures in place,” Smith said. He said it’s important to “share the facts,” while also pointing out that these are just rumors, but to validate the feelings these rumors might elicit.

“Any school threat that is made in Connecticut is immediately taken very seriously by law enforcement,” state police said. “If a threat is determined to be a hoax, there will be a thorough investigation and arrests will be made. This could also lead to further consequences within the school district.”

There have been multiple incidents statewide over the last several weeks, prompting police investigations, early dismissals and canceled school in some cases. Among the other places to see recent threats or incidents were Danbury, Hamden, New Haven, Trumbull, Ansonia and Norwalk.

Includes previous reporting by Tara O’Neill