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San Antonio Sees Rise In School Threats After Florida Shooting

Northwest Vista College in December 2017.
File Photo| Camille Phillips | Texas Public Radio
Northwest Vista College received two bomb threats last week.

At least five school districts and one community college in the San Antonio area have received threats of violence in the last two weeks.

The Boerne, New Bruenfels, Edgewood, Northside and North East independent school districts have all had to investigate and debunk threats since Valentine’s Day, many of them spread on social media. So far, none of them have been found to be credible.

Experts say it’s common to receive more threats after school shootings make national headlines.

Two meritless bomb threats were alsowritten on bathroom stalls at Northwest Lakeview College last week, forcing the community college to evacuate several halls.

Wally McCampbell, the police chief at North East ISD, said his department fielded about two threats a day last week. Usually the district of about 65,000 students receives around five a month.

“There was one day where we were dealing with like three different threats at different schools,” McCampbell said. “It’s very taxing, not only with the officers, but the administration and the students, because they have to go through it too.”

McCampbell said every time school officials learn of a threat, police and administrators identify the person who made it, then contact their family or their parents.

If it is a student, officers ask if he or she has access to weapons and talk to the student to find out why the threat was made, and assess whether the student needs help. The student and their parents then meet with school administrators to discuss consequences.

Amy Klinger, director of programs for the Educator’s School Safety Network, has been tracking school threats nationwide since 2016. Based on media reports, sheestimates that there have been around 70 threats a day since Feb. 15. Normally there are 10 or 12 a day.

While an increase in threats often occurs after a school shooting, Klinger said this time there are more than normal.

“I can make a threat on social media that gets passed around and may impact 10 or 15 schools, not just one school. So I think that is certainly a big part of it,” Klinger said. “It’s a reflection of the intensity of the conversation that’s erupted after Parkland.”

Don Bridges, president of theNational Association of School Resource Officers, also said more threats are made after a school shooting. He said increased attention and awareness can also sometimes cause students and teachers to report more incidents than they normally would.

“It makes everyone — kids and the staff — look at situations that they may have passed by. Now they’re going to look at it through a totally different lens,” Bridges said.

McCampbell said that’s happened at least once this week at North East ISD. Someone overheard a conversation about the shooting in Florida and thought it was a threat.

According to researchers at Northeastern University, fatal school shootings are still rare events. Fewer children are killed in school shootings today than in the 1990s.  

There have been five school shootings during school hours resulting in injuries in 2018.

Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter@cmpcamille

Camille Phillips can be reached at camille@tpr.org or on Instagram at camille.m.phillips. TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.