The Press Association (via the Mail) is reporting on the difficult decisions that faced school authorities in the United States this week after emailed threats were received (and which, no doubt, could at some stage affect our schools too).
When it comes to assessing threats, New York City and Los Angeles schools likely have more experience than most other districts in the country.
But their reactions were dramatically different Tuesday to the same threat of a large-scale jihadi attack with guns and bombs — LA dismissed all its classes while New York dismissed the warning as a hoax.
The divergent responses from the nation’s two biggest K-12 public school systems reflected what many in school security know: That deciding whether or not a threat is credible is hardly a mathematical process and the stakes in staying open or closing are high. It is one that school district officials around the country have weighed heavily in the wake of school shootings and threats.
Across the nation, small and large districts regularly encounter the age-old challenge of deciphering threats, complicated today by more sophisticated technology that can make them harder to trace.
Even when a threat is determined to be a hoax, the consequences can be a severe, with the safety of thousands of children, millions of school funding, and the message each decision sends on the line…
A 2014 analysis by National School Safety and Security Services, a Cleveland-based consulting firm, found a 158 percent increase in the number of threats schools received over the previous year. About 37 percent of the threats were sent electronically and nearly a third resulted in schools being evacuated. Nearly 10 percent of the threats closed school for at least one day.
Ken Trump, president of the firm, said schools leaders faced with a threat they don’t believe is credible sometimes let community anxiety rule the decision to evacuate or close, even though children might be safer in school than sent home where they could be left unsupervised.
“It’s often better to keep them in school,” he said…
I don’t envy anyone having to make these decisions, but it is going to be something more and more have to face.
Your thoughts? Please share in the comments or via Twitter…
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