Multiple school districts across Pennsylvania experienced delays, evacuations, and cancellations due to bomb threats received on Monday. Here are the key details:
- Affected Districts: Scranton, Riverside, Crestwood, Lake-Lehman, Wyoming Area, Wilkes-Barre Area, Burgettstown Middle/High School, Avella, Fort Cherry, California Area, and Albert Gallatin School District.
- Response: Students were evacuated, classes were delayed or canceled, and buildings were searched.
- State Involvement: The Pennsylvania State Police and other law enforcement agencies have been active in assessing and responding to these threats.
Details of the Threats and Responses
Threats and Immediate Action
- In the Scranton School District, officials opted for a two-hour delay due to the threats, which were later deemed unsubstantiated.
- Riverside School District evacuated its students. Police conducted a search, finding no evidence of any explosives. Classes resumed shortly after.
- The Wilkes-Barre Area canceled classes after receiving threats to all its buildings around 8:45 a.m., just as students were arriving. Senior Lucheska Perez stated, “We get to school, and our parents get a Skyward (alert) that we have to leave because apparently there was a bomb threat. So we were evacuated to the stadium, and from there, everyone was going home because apparently (there was a) bomb threat.”
- Lake-Lehman School District received threats at 8:31 a.m., warning of explosives set to detonate within hours. High School students were evacuated to Penn State Wilkes-Barre, while younger students on buses were redirected home.
Additional District Responses
- Burgettstown Middle/High School informed families of the threat and relocated students to a safer location miles away. Later, an explosive-detecting dog cleared the premises, finding no suspicious devices.
- Fort Cherry evacuated its elementary students. The high schoolers were moved to the football field and eventually sent home.
- Avella also evacuated their facilities after receiving a threat.
- California Area School District received a threat but determined it “noncredible” after consultation with local and state police. Still, they will be monitoring the premises closely.
- Albert Gallatin School District was threatened over the weekend without a specific school or district being named.
Context and Connection to Previous Incidents
Four districts in Luzerne County, including Crestwood, Lake Lehman, Wilkes-Barre Area, and Wyoming Area, dismissed their students early. Conversely, the Scranton School District opted for a two-hour delay. These incidents recall events from the previous Friday when Hanover Area and Dallas school districts faced similar threats.
Hazleton police identified some threats as “swatting” calls, a technique where individuals try to provoke a significant law enforcement response by making false reports. This aligns with a statement from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Fusion Center and the Pennsylvania Criminal Intelligence Center, reporting that Pennsylvania school districts have received several email threats claiming explosives inside the schools. However, The Pennsylvania State Police have deemed this threat as “not credible.”
Students, parents, and faculty are understandably on edge. With the frequency of these threats, many are worried about becoming desensitized to them. Wilkes-Barre Area senior, Chapely Perez voiced these concerns, “Scary to think that it would be like, ‘Oh, there’s another bomb threat.’ And then, what if it actually happens?”
Further Measures to Enhance School Safety
In the wake of these threats, many school districts are re-evaluating their current security protocols and looking into additional measures to safeguard their campuses. Here are some initiatives being considered:
- Upgraded Surveillance Systems: Schools are contemplating installing more advanced CCTV cameras with facial recognition technology to closely monitor school entrances and premises.
- Regular Drills: To ensure preparedness, districts are planning on conducting more frequent emergency drills simulating various threats, ensuring that students, teachers, and staff know how to respond efficiently.
- Increased Police Presence: Discussions are underway to bolster police presence during school hours, especially at key entry and exit points.
- Anonymous Reporting Platforms: Schools are considering setting up platforms where students and staff can report suspicious activities or concerns anonymously, ensuring any potential threat is promptly addressed.
- Counseling and Support: Recognizing the emotional toll these threats can have on the school community, districts are focusing on offering counseling services and support groups for students and staff.
As schools and authorities grapple with the challenges of addressing and responding to these threats, the focus remains on ensuring the safety and well-being of students and staff. Efforts are underway to trace the origin of these threats and bring those responsible to justice. Until then, school districts remain vigilant, emphasizing safety as their top priority, working collaboratively with local and state authorities to ensure a comprehensive response to any potential threat.