TikTok swatting challenge brings terror to a day of school in yet another state

'Even though it was fake the emotions are real, the fear that they felt is real,' South Carolina sheriff says.

A TikTok swatting challenge appears to have sparked the latest frenzy of false active shooter reports that terrorized nearly two dozen schools across South Carolina this week. It was the latest day of pointless fear and lockdowns for students and staff in what is quickly becoming an epidemic of nationwide hoaxes aimed at disrupting schools and drawing massive responses from all levels of law enforcement.

A staggering 150 police officers responded to a call Wednesday morning that a gunman had shot someone at Blythewood High School in Richland School District Two. The call, which Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said originated from within the school, forced students and staff to evacuate to the school stadium. Students were sent home after the incident and the high school was “closed for debriefing” on Thursday.

“Unfortunately we do have students that are upset, we’ve got parents that are upset—even though it was fake the emotions are real; the fear that they felt is real,” Lott said at a press conference. “It was like it was the real deal.”

Richland School District Two Superintendent Baron Davis called for stiffer laws to punish those who create these TikTok challenges or make false swatting reports of active shooters that traumatize teachers, staff and students. “I’m heartbroken that people continue to take this as a joke and continue to put our students and our employees in harm’s way … that we don’t seem to value the importance of educating students in a safe and secure environment where they are free of unnecessary issues that can cause anxiety and take the focus off of their learning,” Davis said.

In just the last few months, authorities in every part of the country have received swatting calls reporting active shooters in hundreds of schools across the country, leading to lockdowns, school closures and heavy police responses. In some communities, officials said the calls—which often name specific schools and rooms that are being attacked—might be a coordinated deception coming from outside the U.S. Some 22 South Carolina schools were the victim of hoaxes on Wednesday.

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Where the TikTok swatting challenge spread

On the other side of South Carolina, officials in coastal Beaufort County received a call reporting an active shooter at Beaufort High School.

“The call was a hoax, but before that was determined, police officers and sheriff’s deputies swarmed the school to make sure that students and staff were safe,” the Beaufort Police Department said in a statement. The FBI and the ATF, the South Carolina Highway Patrol, and a U.S. military police K9 unit also responded to the hoax.

Here’s a list of some of the other swatting incidents in South Carolina on Wednesday:

  • South Middle School in the Lancaster County School District was locked down around 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday after police received a call about an active shooter. Students remained in school after law enforcement determined there was no threat.
  • Police officers in Laurens checked all schools in the city after receiving a false report about a shooter at Laurens High School.
  •  A shooting reported at a school in the School District of Oconee County was quickly determined to be a hoax.

Schools in Anderson County District 5, Charleston, Greenville, and Horry County were also targeted in the TikTok swatting challenge, WYFF4 reported. The FBI and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division are joining multiple local law enforcement agencies in the statewide investigation.

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Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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