BASD encounters swatting hoax, officials report no credible threat to safety | News | #schoolsaftey

Threatening emails known as “swatting,” sent to school personnel throughout the Bradford Area School District on Thursday, were deemed non-credible by local and state law enforcement as well as school administrators.

BASD Superintendent Katy Pude and Bradford City Police Chief Michael Ward addressed the incident together.

“The Bradford Area School District and all other districts do not take these hoax threats lightly,” Pude said. “Their sole purpose is to cause panic and fear and we have worked closely with the Bradford Police Department and have followed the advice of the State Police while dealing with the incident. We will continue to monitor any future threats and will continue to take actions to ensure the safety of the students and staff of the Bradford Area School District.”

Ward added, “The hoax was sent via email to random school district administrators or board members in our local IU9 (some were not even current employees). We were warned earlier in the week by the Center of Safe Schools that the emails were being generated and were being sent to various school districts across the nation (very similar to the swatting incidents of last year). I know that there is an ongoing investigation by the Pennsylvania State Police and the FBI to find the source of these emails and hopefully that will happen soon.”

BASD was transparent about the situation and sent a message to subscribers on the REMIND System regarding hoax.

Thursday’s REMIND statement read: “BASD and several other school districts across the IU9 area were the target of an emailed threat commonly referred to as a ‘national swatting hoax.’ This threat has been occurring in other schools across the nation the past week and was investigated by the Pennsylvania State Police, Bradford City Police, and the School District administration.”

The statement continued, “Upon the advice of the police, each school building was thoroughly searched, both inside and out, to ensure the safety of our students and staff. Through the investigation, it was determined that there was no immediate danger and that the threat was not credible.”

Ward pointed out that there had been notifications about emails in other areas. Across the Pittsburgh area, earlier this week, alerts were issued when school districts received false bomb threats, according to reports from news sources in the region.

The Pittsburgh-area incidents are under investigation by the local authorities as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported a statement from FBI spokesperson Catherine Coennen: “The FBI takes these threats very seriously,” she said. “While we have no information to indicate a credible or specific threat, we are assisting our local and state law enforcement partners as needed. We urge the public to remain vigilant, and report any and all suspicious activity and/or individuals to law enforcement immediately.”

Swatting is not new, though it may be new to this region. The Educator’s School Safety Network, a 501©(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to education-based school safety training and resources, reported that the most frequent swatting incidents in the 2022-23 school year were false reports of active shooters.

False reports have been a common occurrence for several years. The group shows that in the 2018-19 academic year there were 69 swatting incidents, or 18.4% of all in-school incidents reported. However, for 2022-23, there were 446 incidents, which shows a 546% increase over the 2018-19 year.

The events are traumatic to students and staff, the network says. “While these swatting incidents may be considered ‘just a threat,’ in reality they have a significant impact by traumatizing students and staff, consuming emergency response resources, robbing students of instructional time, and undermining the perception of safety and security required for a school to function effectively.”

They advise, “School leaders must be proactive in planning and preparing for crisis events, both real and fabricated, and make sure that all school stakeholders have the necessary knowledge, training, and skills to appropriately respond to real or threatened violence. An educator’s most important responsibility is to protect the children in their care from violence — both real and threatened.”

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