Schools across the country have been locked or evacuated in response to a wave of misreported shootings and bomb threats, often referred to as “swatting.”
As students returned to the classroom, reports of swatting emerged at dozens of schools in Louisiana, Minnesota, Colorado, Texas and elsewhere. In some cases, the hoax calls caused mayhem, and students, parents, and educators were already nervous about the threat of gunfire at school. Officials in different states say they have clues as to who made the threats.
The FBI defines “swatting” as making a fake call to 911 in an attempt to get a response from law enforcement, specifically a SWAT team. The perpetrators of these calls often use technology to give the impression that the emergency call came from the home of the “swatted” person.
Swatting searches are sometimes made as a joke and sometimes as a revenge, but the results can be deadly.
In Louisiana alone, 15 schools received active offensive threats Thursday from an internet-based phone number with an out-of-state area code. Vermilion today. According to newspaper reports, one of the false threats targeted Abbeville High School in southwest Lafayette and put the school under lockdown for two hours.
Abbeville Police Chief Mike Hardy told the newspaper that he and the officers investigated each classroom before learning that the phone call may have been part of a prank affecting schools across the country.
Minneapolis Fox affiliate KMSP-TV reported that at least 14 schools in Minnesota were targeted with false reports of active shooters. Officials investigating the call said on Thursday that all calls came from a single IP address, and they believe there is someone behind them, according to station reports.
“It was a hoax and it was reported as such, and here we are on another day, the trauma felt by these teachers and these students is sincerely real,” said Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, a former educator. Press conference Thursday, according to Minnesota Public Radio.
Walz described how his 15-year-old son got real-time videos from friends hiding in lockers at Mankato West High School, where the governor teaches.
Schools in North Carolina and Colorado have also seen swatting incidents recently, according to local media outlets.
According to KMSP-TV, a count by local Fox affiliates found that more than 30 swatting incidents took place in schools nationwide between September 14 and September 21.
Jay Farlow, spokesperson for the National Association of School Resource Officers, said: News Week In an email that the group doesn’t have their comprehensive numbers on false reports at schools.
Farlow said that since a September 13 hoax incident in Houston, news reports have shown similar incidents in more than a dozen states and the District of Columbia.
Chaos erupted Tuesday after a fake hitman tip was reported outside a school in San Antonio. The city is close to Uvalde, where one of the worst school shootings in US history took place in late May, and police have been criticized for their overly cautious approach to the incident.
While Jefferson High School in San Antonio was on lockdown, parents clashed with police trying to break in. San Antonio Express-News. A man cut his arm while trying to break the window to enter the school.
“I definitely got here quickly. I left work and came quickly,” Pete Vela, the parent of a 15-year-old boy, told the newspaper. “I don’t blame the families for wanting to get in after all, especially after what happened in Uvalde, if anyone is inside.”
Amy Klinger, co-founder of Educator’s School Safety Network, told Education Week that incidents of mass shootings are often accompanied by false reports, as some students see threats as a way to attract attention.
But he told the news outlet that repeated lockdowns can reduce school staff and students’ readiness for a real threat, as well as disrupt learning.
“You have such a quick reaction, anxiety, and messages, people scramble to find their children,” Klinger said. “It’s happening a lot more than we thought, and it’s having a much bigger impact.”
News Week reached out to the FBI for comment.