School Climate & Safety

Man Detained in Iraq With U.S. Guide on School Crisis Plans

By Sean Cavanagh — October 08, 2004 2 min read
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An unidentified man taken into custody by U.S. authorities in Iraq had a computer disc containing a publicly available federal report on school emergency planning, according to a San Diego school official, who said the district was notified of the incident because the report describes some of the district’s crisis-response procedures.

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Those descriptions are incorporated into “Practical Information on Crisis Planning: A Guide for Schools and Communities,” published in May 2003 by the U.S. Department of Education’s office of safe and drug-free schools. The FBI notified the San Diego district of the situation, Steven S. Baratte, a spokesman for the school system, said in an interview last week.

The 146-page guide, available on the Education Department’s Web site, offers school officials tips on security and crisis response.

An FBI official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Sept. 30 that there was no evidence of a threat to the San Diego schools or the other districts mentioned in the report, and that the in tentions of the individual in Iraq could have been harmless. The FBI official said the bureau had passed the information along to the school system as a precaution. The official declined comment on the circumstances or timing of the man’s detention.

‘No Direct Threat’

The report, “Practical Information on Crisis Planning: A Guide for Schools and Communities,” is available from the U.S. Department of Education. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

San Diego school officials did not notify parents of the matter because of the vague nature of the information and a desire not to cause alarm, Mr. Baratte said.

“There was no direct threat to schools or the district,” he said. “We didn’t want to cause undue panic.” All of San Diego’s schools have crisis-response plans that are reviewed regularly, as required by state law, he said.

The Education Department’s guide describes the 140,000-student San Diego district’s approach to responding to crises and coordinating activity with law enforcement and the community. It also outlines crisis-response strategies in the Olathe school district in Kansas, the Boyertown Area School District in Pennsylvania, the Volusia County schools in Florida, and the Hanover County district in Virginia.

Boyertown Superintendent Charles D. Amuso said the report doesn’t contain sensitive information, only a description of some things the district does well.

The FBI official said the agency had made efforts to get in touch with districts cited in the report over the past several weeks.

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