April 14, 2023

Bomb threats close dozens of Indiana schools for in-person instruction

WFYI Fie Photo

WFYI Fie Photo

Several dozen Indiana school districts closed or shifted to remote instruction Friday following emailed bomb threats, according to Indiana State Police.

The districts that shifted to virtual learning include Noblesville, Center Grove, and Speedway in Central Indiana, according to public statements. But threats were not clustered in a specific region. Schools closed across the state, including northern Indiana districts — such as Northwest Allen County outside of Fort Wayne — and along the Ohio border — such as Union County College Corner Joint School District.

The Indiana State Police said that no suspicious or explosive devices were found as of 9:10 a.m. Friday. In a statement, the police said emails were sent to “several dozen Indiana schools threatening the use of explosive devices that had allegedly been planted on various school campuses.”

“Out of an abundance of caution, troopers throughout the state have been in communication with their local schools to offer assistance and resources,” the statement continued. “School corporations are working with their local law enforcement to make the best decision about their operations today.”

The Indiana Department of Education referred the media to the Indiana State Police statement.

Nationally, schools and colleges have faced a surge of “swatting” calls and emails this year, said Ken Trump, a consultant who runs National School Safety and Security Services. Those are false threats designed to trigger a response from law enforcement.

“These school swatting threats create an upheaval for the entire school community,” said Trump, who is based in Cleveland. “They draw and drain massive law enforcement responses from other needs out in the community. And they cause anxiety for students, staff and parents until they're resolved.”

Trump said threats should be taken seriously and investigated. And schools should increase security after a threat. But he cautioned against closing schools if district and law enforcement officials do not believe threats are credible.

“If you evacuate and close today for a threat that you believe is not credible, you're going to do the same thing next week, the week after and so on,” Trump said. “And that's just going to attract more likely threats because the threat makers are seeing and getting the reaction that they want.”

That was the approach the Edinburgh school district took in Johnson County. The district’s schools opened despite receiving a threat because it was not considered credible, according to a statement.

“Both school buildings were searched last night and again this morning by law enforcement and school administration,” the statement continued. “The safety of our students and staff is our top priority. We would not be in session if we believed that anyone's safety was in jeopardy. A strong police presence will be at both schools as a precaution.”

Some parents, however, feel that schools should be cautious when they receive threats — even if that means closing or going into lockdown for threats that aren’t credible.

Frankton-Lapel Community Schools, a district nearly an hour northeast of Indianapolis, serves roughly 3,000 students. Crystal Ake, the mother of four daughters in the district, said she received an alert that classrooms would switch to remote learning at 6 a.m.

“I was half in shock, but half not,” Ake said. “Because [of] the world that we're living in right now, These things are unfortunately happening everywhere. But in our small town, that was kind of a big shock.”

Ake wasn’t sure if this was a credible threat, since local kids have previously made threats to schools in the district. But she’s glad the district responded this way. 

“I’m sure by six o'clock, there were already parents headed to work and trying to get the kids in the before-care system that opens at six,” Ake said. “And I'm sure that was probably frustrating. But at the end of the day, it's so much better to know that they will just automatically call off everything if there's even a hint of a threat.”

Indianapolis Public Schools and Fort Wayne Community Schools, the largest districts in the state, did not receive threats. Both schools were open for in-person instruction on Friday.

This story has been updated.

Contact WFYI education reporter Elizabeth Gabriel at egabriel@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: @_elizabethgabs.

Contact WFYI education reporter Dylan Peers McCoy at dmccoy@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: @dylanpmccoy.

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