Police and the FBI don’t exactly keep track of the number of bomb threats made against schools, but news reports suggest the number went up sharply last year, compared to the 2012-13 school year, the Associated Press reports.
Based on media reports, 135 bomb threats were made against schools in Massachusetts, and 96 were made against schools in Ohio. Citing an educational administration instructor at Ashland University in Ohio, the AP estimates that 1,267 bomb threats were made nationwide against schools during the 2015-16 school year, representing about twice as many as in 2012-13.
“Schools are in a really bad position,” the AP quoted Amy Klinger of Ashland as saying. “People are going to be mad if you evacuate; people are going to be upset if you don’t evacuate.”
But when schools evacuate, the disruption can be substantial. We reported last year that the Los Angeles Unified School District sent hundreds of thousands of students home for a day based on a phoned-in bomb threat that officials took seriously. We also reported that New York City schools had received a similar bomb threat but dismissed it without evacuating the schools.
Following that, it seemed, bomb threats were coming in on a regular basis. The AP estimates that schools receive about eight per day, and those are just the bomb threats that are phoned in—or written on toilet paper in the bathroom or on a wall, or who knows where.
Officials know that real bombers don’t usually phone ahead. “I’m more worried about the threat that I don’t know about rather than the threat that I do,” the AP quoted Joe Hendry, a veteran Kent State University police officer and a trainer and consultant on threat responses.
But even false alarms bring grave consequences, such as lost instruction time, a costly response from law enforcement and student safety personnel, and a greatly reduced sense of security on the part of students, staff, parents, and other members of the community.