21 October 2016
An officer ties a police line to a road sign outside a school which was among dozens shut in Los Angeles on Monday because of a security threat. Photo: AP
An officer ties a police line to a road sign outside a school which was among dozens shut in Los Angeles on Monday because of a security threat. Photo: AP

Feds say threat a hoax after mass closures of LA schools

Fears are reverberating across US after the entire Los Angeles school district was shut down over a threatened attack on Tuesday.

Federal officials later said the threat was likely a hoax but said it was highly unusual because it involved hundreds of thousands of students.

Reuters is reporting the dozens of schools in the country’s second largest school district have been evacuated after officials determined the threat was significant enough.

On Monday alone, at least 12 schools dealt with threats significant enough to trigger evacuations or make headlines.

Champlain Valley Union High School in Hinesburg, Vermont, for instance, was evacuated on Tuesday after a bomb threat, local news reports said.

Authorities did not believe the threat credible but shut the school due to an “abundance of caution.”

Threats to schools are nothing new in the US, particularly in early December when many hold half-yearly tests and some students may see a threat as a way to disrupt exams.

But the phenomenon appears to be growing, data suggest.

There were 812 violent threats made against US schools in the last six months of 2014, the most recent data available, up 158 percent on the previous year, according to the National School Safety and Security Services, a private consulting firm.

Those threats led to the evacuation or closure of schools in 30 percent of the cases, according to the study. Threats were made in 46 states in the six month period.

A third of the threats were sent electronically, it said.

The threat sent electronically that prompted the closing of the Los Angeles school district on Tuesday was linked to an internet address in Frankfurt, Germany, a spokeswoman for the school district said. However, those who made the threat could have been much closer and masked their location.

Meanwhile, New York City police chief William Bratton said his city’s schools had received an almost identical threat as Los Angeles but it was quickly deemed not credible. New York’s schools remained open.

Bratton described the move in Los Angeles to close schools as a “significant overreaction”.

The school closures and evacuations coincide with a widening national debate over security, gun control and the threat posed by Islamist militants in the United States and overseas, which has spilled into the 2016 presidential election campaign. Many Americans say they increasingly fear an attack, recent opinion polls suggest.

In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Sunday, the percentage of Americans saying national security and terrorism are the top priority for the federal government had climbed 19 points since April to 40 percent.

That followed a spate of mass shootings, capped by the Dec. 2 spree by a heavily armed couple inspired by Islamic State who killed 14 at an office holiday party in San Bernardino, California.

That massacre followed a Nov. 27 shooting that killed three at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic, the Nov. 13 attack in Paris by Islamic State militants that killed 130 and an Oct. 1 rampage by a gunman who killed 10 at an Oregon college.

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