SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – “I would’ve never thought I was talking to my daughter about if a gentleman comes in with a gun what to do.”
Jacqueline Pidanik, a Beaufort County School District parent, describes the conversation she had with her 8-year-old about threats of gun violence at local schools.
“I literally had to tell her because she would pick up bits and pieces of things being said, you’re not gonna die, you’re not gonna get injured, you’re gonna be OK because she would really analyze it,” Pidanik said.
In the last two weeks, News 3 has reported on seven schools in the area receiving threats. Parents say it’s a heartbreaking and scary pattern.
On Friday, districts nationwide were monitoring an apparent TikTok trend threatening school violence. Locally, school districts did not report any incidents related to the rumors.
As a parent, Pidanik said there is always a sense of panic over if her kids’ school will be the next vicitm.
Another parent, who asked not to be named, has kept her kids home multiple times this year in fear of a threat.
“They’re tired of it. It causes trauma and it causes anxiety issues with these children,” the mother said. “This constant fear of ‘what if?’ with these school shootings is uncalled for.”
Dr. Quentina Miller-Fields, the director of student affairs for SCCPSS, said threats of school violence are concerning and have an emotional impact on students and staff.
“They’re concerned. They’re afraid. They are not sure whether they’re pranks or real,” Miller-Fields said.
Miller-Fields said it’s important for parents to frequently check in with their kids – and encourages students to speak out.
“Opening up, having open dialogue does not necessarily prove you are snitching on anybody,” she said. “But it is an effort to make sure you are supporting and protecting yourself, and possibly supporting and protecting others as well.”
Police in Bluffton and Statesboro have charged suspects in connection to threats made at schools. School districts, including SCCPSS, said they take every threat seriously and aim to send a strong message.
“Students that are involved in this misbehavior – that misbehavior being making a prank – we say think twice before you act once,” Miller-Fields said. “Because what you do can have serious implications.”
Ultimately, Miller-Fields said communication is the most important strategy for supporting students’ mental health.
“Communicate with those who can help you,” she said. “Yes, it’s good to tell a friend who may tell a helping adult, but certainly you are the first line of communication. Communicate with your teachers, communicate with your guidance counselors and also communicate with your parents.”