A nationwide viral TikTok trend that encourages students to make threats of violence against school districts has local school officials and law enforcement on alert and has led to the arrest of a Watertown juvenile, according to the Carver County Sheriff’s Office.

According to the sheriff’s office, on Dec. 17, local law enforcement was made aware of a threat leveled against Watertown-Mayer Middle School. The threat – allegedly made by a 13-year-old male student at the school – indicated the juvenile planned to bring a gun to school and shoot multiple students, some of which were identified by name.

Deputies interviewed the juvenile at his home, and the juvenile admitted to making the threats in response to a recent viral trend on the social media platform TikTok that encourages students to make threats against school districts, according to the sheriff’s office.

The juvenile was detained for making terroristic threats and was transported to the Carver County Juvenile Detention Center for detention until a initial court appearance can be made.

Deputies noted that the juvenile did not have access to firearms at his home, and a search of school property found no weapons located on school grounds. Watertown-Mayer district officials have stated that the student will not be allowed to return to classes this week.

Officials with both Norwood Young America’s Central school district and Waconia schools have also notified parents of stepped-up law enforcement presences at buildings as a precaution to the viral trend – and local school districts are not alone in their caution.

Last week, school districts nationwide stepped up police presences or – like large districts in Chicago and Philadelphia – cancelled classes altogether. The vague, anonymous posts circulating online warned that multiple schools would receive shooting and bomb threats.

In a statement on Twitter, TikTok said it was working with law enforcement to investigate.

“We handle even rumored threats with utmost seriousness,” the statement said, “which is why we’re working with law enforcement to look into warnings about potential violence at schools even though we have not found evidence of such threats originating or spreading via TikTok.”

The posts follow a disturbing trend that has had students acting out in response to social media challenges. In September, students across the U.S. posted videos of themselves vandalizing school bathrooms and stealing soap dispensers as part of the “devious licks” challenge.

In October, students were challenged to slap a teacher, prompting the National Education Association to call on the leaders of Facebook, Twitter and TikTok to intervene.

Internet companies such as TikTok are generally exempt from liability under U.S. law for the material users post on their networks, thanks in large part to the legal “safe harbor” they are given by Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.

In a letter to families in the school district, Central schools asked parents and students to notify school staff of any potential threat against students, staff or schools that are posted on social media or that are made in-person.

As for local law enforcement, Carver County Sheriff Jason Kamerud said that his department was taking the viral trend seriously.

“The threat of school violence is no laughing matter and cannot be considered a joke today,” Kamerud said. “Victims are rightfully scared for their own safety when anyone makes these kinds of threats. The Carver County Sheriff’s Office will thoroughly investigate and pursue prosecution of offenders. The stakes are too high to do anything less.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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