The Los Angeles school system shut down Tuesday because of an emailed threat – even though New York City officials, who received the same electronic message, determined the email was a “hoax.”
The California district closed its more than 900 schools because of a “credible electronic threat,” prompting district leaders to send students home, adding chaos and confusion to parents’ workdays.
But officials on the East Coast held a press conference a few hours later deeming the email, which was apparently sent from an IP address in Germany, a silly prank.
“The immediate assessment was there was nothing credible about the threat,” said NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio. “It was so generic, so outlandish and posed to numerous school systems simultaneously … It would be a huge disservice to our nation to close down our school system.”
New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton even joked that the perpetrator may be a fan of Showtime television program “Homeland,” which deals with national security.
The content of the email “mirrors a lot of recent episodes of Homeland,” Bratton said.
But their West Coast counterparts took the threat seriously, especially in the aftermath of an Islamic terrorist-inspired mass shooting in San Bernardino nearly two weeks ago that left 14 people dead.
Superintendent Ramon Cortines say in a news conference Tuesday morning that Los Angeles Unified School District received a bomb threat that talked about “backpacks” and “other packages.”
“I think it is important that I take the precaution based on what has happened recently and what has happened in the past,” Cortines said, according to the L.A. Times. “Before the day is over, I want every school searched to make sure that it is safe for children and safe for staff to be there on Wednesday.”
Steven Zipperman, chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, said the agency received an “electronic threat that mentioned the safety of our schools.” The FBI was investigating.
Cortines said extra precautions were taken because the danger was posed to a number of schools.
“It was not to one school, two schools or three schools — it was many schools, not specifically identified,” he said at a press conference shortly before 7 a.m., according to the New York Times. He added that the threat was made explicitly “to students at schools.”
Although there was no cause for serious concern, the head of NYC’s Department of Education said in a statement to EdScoop that the agency is working closely with law enforcement.
“We are working closely with the NYPD and there is no reason for alarm,” said NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “As always, the safety of our students and staff both in and around schools is our number one concern and any extra needed security measures will be taken.”