The nation’s two largest districts responded very differently to recent threats to their schools, raising questions about how school officials should handle such matters.
Los Angeles Unified closed its 900 schools Dec. 15 after district leaders received an online threat to multiple sites.
Police and district officials scoured every building for signs of explosives or danger. Classes resumed the next day after officials determined the threat was not credible.
New York City schools received a similar threat that same day but opted to stay open after city police determined it was not credible, said Police Commissioner William J. Bratton, who added at a press conference that he was concerned people were “overreacting.”
Perhaps responding to those statements, Los Angeles officials defended the decision to close schools, which was made by Superintendent Ramon Cortines.
“We are not making a decision about the colorof a car or what to eat for dinner,” Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said on the day of the closures. “This is about the safety of our children.”
In the days that followed, several other large districts, including Houston and Miami, reported they had received similar threats and decided to remain open. Some smaller districts, including Nashua, N.H., also closed in the weeks after Los Angeles’ closures.
Cortines said he had approached the message, sent from an IP address in Germany, with particular caution after recent terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, Calif.
But Bratton said there were signs the threat was not legitimate, including the way Allah was spelled with a lowercase “a.”
Los Angeles Unified’s decision sent some families of its 640,000 students scrambling for child care. Principals waited at schools with children who’d walked there before hearing the closure message, and the city offered free bus rides to all students.
A version of this article appeared in the January 06, 2016 edition of Education Week as Los Angeles and New York Districts Choose Different Responses to Threats