It has been determined that a bomb threat that caused the Los Angeles Unified School District to close about 900 schools today was a hoax, the New York Times reports.
Superintendent Ramon C Cortines of the Los Angeles school system and Steven K Zipperman, chief of its police department, said a threat was received by email that was made against not just one but several schools. The FBI was notified and, with “an abundance of caution,” the schools were all closed.
Officials in New York City said they had also received a similar threat Tuesday. Before they closed schools, they determined the threat to be a hoax.
The message sent to Los Angeles had elements that made it appear “not credible,” including a one-time failure to capitalize the word “Allah.” One representative said a devout Muslim, as claimed in the email, would take greater care when typing the word “Allah.”
Plus, no bomb was found.
The LAUSD serves approximately 640,000 students in grades K through 12, and none of them were in school Tuesday as a result of the superintendent “not taking the chance of bringing children anyplace, into any part of the building, until I know it is safe.”
That’s a tall order, and I’m sure Mr Cortines didn’t mean to suggest he could know with any degree of certainty that buildings were safe—not in today’s climate of fear.
However, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance,” to quote President Franklin D Roosevelt’s first inaugural. Today our schools retreated; tomorrow let’s hope they advance.
From the beginning, especially given the similar threat in New York, this had all the earmarks of a hoax. Terrorists simply don’t phone ahead to warn people there’s going to be an explosion, a shooting, or other mayhem; they just murder people in cold blood.
But whatever my hindsight-aware, armchair, Monday-morning-quarterback analysis may be, I fully support Mr Cortines’s decision to close the schools. If it had not been a hoax and he had made the other call, we would be condemning him, and so we cannot allow the actual results to sway our opinions.
Furthermore, I hope the person responsible for disrupting the lives of nearly a million people, from students to teachers to families, even though nobody got physically hurt, is punished to the fullest extent of the law.
Sure, we Americans push the panic button quite easily these days, following the attacks in Colorado Springs, San Bernardino, and then in Paris and other cities here and abroad. For better or worse, it’s now entirely possible to disrupt millions of lives and cause fear to take root in our large cities and in our schools just by sending an email that refers to a bomb in a backpack.
Police and the FBI may also be on heightened alert for threats. I take comfort in knowing that school personnel and students were never in danger, but there’s no easy answer for this situation if you’re the superintendent of a school district.
And in our communities at large, we can keep bomb materials and assault weapons out of the hands of all the people we want; all criminals need to spread fear is an Internet connection and a free email account. They don’t even have to gain entry to the US, so a wall wouldn’t help either.