CHICAGO (CBS) — The “creepy clown” phenomenon has forced one iconic character to take a lower profile.

Saying it was “mindful of the current climate around clown sightings,” burger giant McDonald’s says Ronald McDonald may be making fewer public appearances.

The decision comes after a wave of reports, mostly false, of clowns making threats against students.

“McDonald’s and franchisees in the local markets are mindful of the current climate around clown sightings in communities and as such are being thoughtful in respect to Ronald McDonald’s participation in community events for the time being,” said company spokeswoman Terri Hickey.

Threats on social media have targeted more than a half-dozen towns around Chicago and in Northwest Indiana.

Many schools have increased police patrols around campus.

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