'Swatting' Incidents

Reports: Rash of Fake Active Shooter Calls Have Impacted Nearly 200 Schools This Semester

Nearly 200 schools in 28 states have been targeted by hoax “active shooter” calls since the beginning of the school year, according to investigations published this week by NPR and Wired.

Between Sept. 13 and last Friday, Oct. 21, NPR reported it counted local news reports of 182 different schools receiving false calls about such threats — each prompting a so-called “swatting” response wherein law enforcement, guns drawn, swarms the location where the crime is allegedly in progress.

NPR and Wired reported that many of the hoax calls are coming from a VoIP or internet-based phone account tied to internet protocol servers in Ethiopia, and that fewer than a dozen phone numbers were used in in a majority of the swatting incidents targeting schools.

Local and state law enforcement are investigating the incidents, and the FBI did not respond to reporters’ inquiries whether it is also involved in the investigations. However, Wired obtained a copy of an FBI memo sent in October to schools in New York in which “the agency describes a single subject — a male ‘with a heavy accent described as Middle Eastern or African’ — behind many of these hoax calls.”

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety told Wired that at least 26 schools in the state have “received false reports of bomb threats or active shootings from the same individual or group” since March. “Scores of schools in New Jersey, Florida, California, South Carolina, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Connecticut have been targeted in the past three weeks,” Wired reported on Monday.

The rash of hoax swatting incidents have sent hundreds of schools nationwide into lockdown unnecessarily, costing lost instructional time, and costing taxpayers for the wasted law enforcement response time, as well.

School surveillance provider TDR Technology Solutions provided a recent report to Wired in which CEO estimated over a million students have been impacted by the hoax swatting incidents between Aug. 1 and Oct. 6. “The hoax calls, his report claims, have cost taxpayers more than $31 million in lost instructional time,” Wired reported.

Learn more by reading the full reports by NPR and Wired.

About the Author

Kristal Kuykendall is editor, 1105 Media Education Group. She can be reached at [email protected].