A new training program developed by the federal government aims to help school administrators and local law-enforcement officials deal more effectively with school bomb threats.
A CD-ROM containing threat-prevention measures, response training, and follow- up procedures will be distributed to the nation’s public school districts, according to U.S. Department of Education officials, who are working with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives on the program.
“We clearly understand now because of 9/11 that a bomb threat needs to be taken for real,” said William Modzeleski, the Education Department’s associate deputy undersecretary in charge of the office of safe and drug-free schools.
In the past, bomb threats were often viewed as idle pranks made by students who wanted a day off, Mr. Modzeleski said.
But now, he said, many school officials, faced with bomb-threat disruptions that have forced some to extend their school calendars, believe that such threats need to be dealt with more effectively.
ATF spokesman Andrew Lluberes said that the two federal agencies began working on the program after the 1999 Columbine High School attack, which claimed the lives of 12 students and one teacher at the Jefferson County, Colo., school, in addition to those of the two student gunmen.
Although no organization has tracked the number of bomb threats received by schools each year, the National School Safety Center—a private, nonprofit organization based in Westlake Village, Calif.—estimates that the Columbine shootings inspired more than 5,000 bomb threats in the six months following the incident.
Department of Education officials hope that the CD-ROM and its companion Web site—www.threatplan.org—will help strengthen partnerships between school districts and local law enforcement.
Still, it’s only meant to be a guide, federal officials say, and districts should tailor their own response plans based on local needs.