Schools Increasingly Responding To Terror Threats With Lockdowns, Closures


In Snohomish, Wa., 1,600 high school students were evacuated after a bomb threat was found scrawled on a bathroom wall. In Lowell, In., 1,300 high school students were locked down for two hours after a student reportedly threatened to “shoot up the school.” In Beavercreek, Oh., more than 2,000 high school students were sent home early after someone phoned in a bomb threat, the third targeting the school this fall. While attention this week was on Los Angeles’ decision to shutter schools over a fake bomb threat, more than a dozen other incidents the same day prompted panic at the nation's educational institutions. The Washington Post calls it “a sign of the times, and an indication that schools are taking threats increasingly seriously.” Lowell Superintendent Debra Howe says: “What we've told our children is that this is a different age — you can't make jokes and talk about shootings or bombings. Everything has a heightened sense of awareness now.”

After a series of mass shootings this year, as well as terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, people are feeling jittery. A Gallup poll found fear of terrorism hit its highest point in 10 years in November, with one in six Americans naming terrorism as the nation’s most important issue. Nowhere is that fear more evident than at schools and universities, which are responding to threats real and imagined with unprecedented rigor. Many experts see a rise in electronic or telephone threats, and schools are increasingly responding with lockdowns and closures. “Schools are a soft target by their nature. They're very difficult to control, with kids coming in and going out all the time,” said Johnathan Tal of Tal Global, a security consulting firm that works with schools. “And it's not just the deranged high school student or middle school student you have to worry about. It's a really attractive target for terrorists because it's an emotional target.”

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