Schools Across the Country Face Lockdowns Due to Hoax Threats

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Need to Know from SafeWise
  • Seven states and dozens of schools faced active shooter and bomb threats this week that were hoaxes.
  • The hoax calls, also known as “swatting,” came the same week as a deadly school shooting in Nashville.
  • Police and law enforcement put each school into lockdown while responding to the calls and treated them as real until they discovered no active shooter or bomb.
  • Swatting calls are nothing new, but their use as school shooting hoaxes is rising nationwide.

During the past month, schools across the country have faced bomb and active shooter threats that turned out to be hoaxes. Law enforcement put each school on lockdown and investigated the building before declaring the calls hoaxes.

At least five states reported hoax threats just this week. Many of those calls came after a deadly school shooting in Nashville on Monday.

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Outside of Albany, New York, on Thursday morning, several school districts were on lockdown in response to reports of an active shooter. Across the state in Rochester, school districts also received swatting calls regarding an active shooter. These lockdowns came one day after more than a dozen schools in Utah and Pennsylvania went into lockdown following active shooter threats and bomb threats.

Unfortunately, New York, Utah, and Pennsylvania were not alone in hoax threats this week.

On Monday, Missouri reported hoax calls in and outside St. Louis, while 14 cities and towns in Rhode Island received calls reporting an active shooter. Schools in five districts reported fake mass shooting calls in Ohio on Tuesday and nearly 30 Massachusetts schools that same day.

Police cleared each school and determined there was no shooting or threat; each call was a hoax. The Pennsylvania State Police believe the calls were “computer generated swatting calls.”

Responding to dangerous hoax calls

The Associated Press reports that threats and reports of shooters at schools and colleges have been occurring for months. The goal is to get law enforcement, especially SWAT teams, to respond—hence the name “swatting.” Since June 2022, FBI officials have identified hoax swatting calls to over 250 colleges, 100 high schools, and several junior high schools.

When receiving an active shooter or bomb threat call, law enforcement responds accordingly and enacts a school-wide lockdown. Only after clearing the school and determining there is no threat to safety do the police begin to consider swatting.

In October 2022, NPR reported on hoax calls occurring in 28 states between September 13 and October 21, 2022. Already, seven states have experienced swatting from March 27 to March 30, 2023.  

Last week, police responded to swatting calls in Ohio, Iowa, and New York. At the same time, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Michigan, Minnesota, Colorado, and Kansas reported swatting incidents at schools earlier this month. In February, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, and California reported swatting calls.

Officials reported “distinct similarities” in the calls, including technology masking the caller’s location and the caller pretending to be in the school.

At the same time as authorities are receiving these hoax calls, mass shootings are occurring across the U.S. Hoax calls can have consequences, with the FBI noting that swatting “puts innocent people at risk.”

How to keep your student safe

Police treat all threatening calls as real and respond to them with high priority. Swatting calls are only known to be hoaxes once law enforcement clears the building.

If your child’s school is under lockdown for what is later determined to be a hoax call, it’s important to talk to them about the experience.

“The traumatic effects of this on kids are just — you can’t even measure it at this stage: Lock down or don’t lock down? Is it real? Is it not real? We call it Generation Lockdown,” Juliette Kayyem, a national security expert , told GBH Morning Edition. “These kids are living this nightmare of both the reality of school shootings and now this second curse, so to speak, which is these swatting cases.”  

Alex Kerai
Written by
Alex Kerai
Alex began writing for student newspapers and has managed to turn that into a career. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he wrote about small businesses for Biz2Credit and Business.org. Before that, he spent time in communications for higher education institutions, created marketing materials for nonprofits, and worked for entertainment companies in Los Angeles. Today, he reports on emerging consumer trends and his work can be seen on The Penny Hoarder, SafeWise, Business.org, Reviews.org, Move.org, WhistleOut.com, CableTV.com, HighSpeedInternet.com, and SatelliteInternet.com. When he's not writing, Alex watches too much TV, plays guitar, reads and writes fiction, and goes on nature walks.

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