Richland School District Two officials said the district was prepared for the shooting threat Wednesday and will continue to keep schools safe for students. Photo by Dylan Ortuno
Blythewood High School in northeast Richland County received a hoax phone call Wednesday morning reporting a shooter on campus.
After deputies established there was no active shooter, several schools across South Carolina reported the same false claim, all resulting from a TikTok trend, according Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott.
Lott confirmed in a press conference after the event the hoaxes resulted from a TikTok challenge for viewers to make the calls.
“This morning, law enforcement responded to a call from an unknown caller that shots had been fired on the Blythewood High School campus,” Richland School District Two officials said in a statement. “The Richland County Sheriff’s Department responded immediately. The school was placed on lockdown while law enforcement searched the building. RCSD has determined the call was one of three hoax calls made to South Carolina schools this morning. There is no evidence of any gunfire or injuries at the school.”
There might have been closer to a dozen schools involved, according to news reports from around the state.
The trend is a challenge on the popular social media app to make a prank call and see what happens, Lott said. The caller spoofed their location, saying someone had been shot in a particular room at the school.
If identified, the caller will be arrested, Lott said.
“This morning, I think we saw just the world that we live in today — people making false calls, wanting to disturb school, wanting to scare people,” he said. “And that’s what we had.”
Lott listened to the call, describing it as “sophisticated but not sophisticated.” It was unidentifiable at first as a prank call, though, and officers responded accordingly.
Officers began to realize the call was a hoax when they found no one wounded inside the reported rooms.
As is typical in active shooter reports, the FBI and the State Law Enforcement Division were assisting, Lott said. He also said plans have been put into place for future similar incidents.
“That was the bad,” Lott said. “The continued bad was the emotion we saw in students and parents who are suffering because of someone who made a false call. The good part was the response of the students and staff.”
About 150 police officers responded immediately, Lott said. In a short time, they were in control of the school and searching. Everyone was prepared, he said, and they have been for years.
“It was an exercise, it was a practice,” Lott said. “We saw how we would respond if we ever did have an active shooter in one of our schools.”
No other Richland schools were shut down, and students did not go back to school after.
Richland Two superintendent Baron Davis said he was thankful that officials responded and were prepared.
As a parent, spouse and superintendent, he said, he’s frustrated and saddened that people take this as a joke.
He called for community and political action, saying the district will provide support for students, parents and staff.
James Manning, chair of the Richland Two school board, said the situation is a nationwide issue.
We’ll “look forward to the help ahead of us,” Manning said.