The Los Angeles Unified School District has shut down all 900 of its schools today after a bomb threat was received by one of the district’s school board members.
The district of 640,000 students will be closed for the day while the threat is assessed by law enforcement officials, district officials said at a news conference. A notice on the district’s website advised students to return home, the city offered free public transportation to students, and school officials met young children at the gates to schools to wait with them for their parents, officials said.
New York City officials say they received a similar specific threat to the city’s schools and opted not to close after they concluded it was a hoax, the Associated Press reported. New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said he was “very comfortable that this is not a credible threat” and that he was “concerned about people overreacting to it.”
.@CommissBratton: These threats are made to promote fear...we can not allow us to raise the levels of fear
-- NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) December 15, 2015
Perhaps responding to those statements, LA officials defended the decision to close schools, which was made by Superintendent Ramon Cortines.
“We are not making a decision about the color of a car or what to eat for dinner,” Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said. “This is about the safety of our children.”
Cortines said school leaders and law enforcement officials are spending the day searching all of the district’s schools after a board member recieved the threat, which was targetted at multiple L.A. schools, last night.
“There are no secrets,” Cortines said. “Somebody has sent information that leads us to pause and make sure that we are safe, that our children and our staff are safe.”
The threat mentioned backpacks and packages left at school buildings, Beck said. It was sent from an IP address in Frankfurt, Germany, though it may have originated “much closer,” he said.
“I have reviewed the email that was sent to a Los Angeles school board member,” U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Los Angeles), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told the Los Angeles Times. “The author claims to be an extremist Muslim who has teamed up with local jihadists.”
“We do not know whether these claims are true or a lie. We do not know whether this email is from a devout Muslim who supports jihadists or perhaps a non-Muslim with a different agenda.”
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told the Times in a statement: “The preliminary assessment is that it was a hoax or something designed to disrupt school districts in large cities. The investigation is ongoing as to where the threat originated from and who was responsible.”
New York officials said they concluded that city’s threat, which was also sent from an overseas IP address, was not credible in part because “Allah” was spelled with a lowercase a.
The Los Angeles closure comes less than two weeks after a mass shooting in nearby San Bernardino, Calif., killed 14 people.
“The only thing that is more important than the education of our children is the safety of our children, and we will make sure that that safety is assured.” Los Angeles school board President Steve Zimmer said.
Officials in both cities said they are working with the FBI to monitor the situation.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday afternoon that he wouldn’t “second guess” the decisions of the two districts.
Photo: A police officer puts up yellow tape to secure the area outside of Edward Roybal High School in Los Angeles Tuesday. All schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District— the nation’s second largest—were ordered closed due to an electronic threat Tuesday. --Richard Vogel/AP
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.