E-mail threat ‘hoax’ forces closure of LA schools

All schools in the vast Los Angeles Unified School District were ordered to close on Tuesday due to an electronic threat.  Picture: AP

All schools in the vast Los Angeles Unified School District were ordered to close on Tuesday due to an electronic threat. Picture: AP

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All public schools in the Los Angeles area were shut down yesterday after a school board member received an e-mailed threat that raised fears of another attack like the deadly shooting in nearby San Bernardino.

New York City officials said they received the same threat, but quickly concluded that it was a hoax. New York Police Commissioner William Bratton said he thought Los Angeles officials overreacted.

Bratton said the person who wrote the note claimed to be a jihadist, but made errors that made it clear the person was a hoaxer.

Los Angeles Unified School District spokeswoman Shannon Haber said the threat was believed to have come from an IP address in Frankfurt, Germany. Authorities would not elaborate on the threat, saying it was still being evaluated. They described the shutdown as a precaution.

The shutdown abruptly closed more than 1,000 schools attended by 640,000 students across Los Angeles.

Superintendent Ramon Cortines said every campus would be searched, and he asked for a report from the school board certifying that they are safe.

Lupita Vela, who has a daughter in elementary school and a son in high school, called the threat “absolutely terrifying” in light of the San Bernardino attack, which killed 14 people earlier this month.

She received an automated phone call informing her of the closure.

“I know the kids are anxious,” she said.

The Los Angeles Unified School District commonly gets threats, but Cortines called this one rare. “It was not to one school, two schools or three schools,” he told a news conference. “It was many schools, not specifically identified.”

The San Bernardino attack influenced the decision to close the entire district, Cortines said.

The superintendent said the district police chief informed him about the threat shortly after 5 am.

“He shared with me that some of the details talked about backpacks, talked about other packages,” Cortines said.

Vela said she worries about talking to her children about terrorism and is concerned about her daughter feeling safe in class.

“I don’t want this to be in the back of her head,” she said. “Is this going to cause her some kind of trauma so that she’s not going to feel safe at school?”

The closure came the same day classes were cancelled at San Bernardino Valley College because of a bomb threat.

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