Local districts cautious after threat shuts down LA schools

The nation's second-largest school district shut down all of its campuses Tuesday after an emailed threat targeted students at many Los Angeles-area schools. School district officials confirmed Tuesday evening that hundreds of schools closed due to the threat, would re-open on Wednesday.  

The shooting in nearby San Bernardino that left 14 people dead this month influenced the decision to close all the schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, which 640,000 students attend, Superintendent Ramon Cortines said.

New York City officials say 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 prankster.

The San Francisco Unified School District told KTVU it did not receive any threats, but was still asking school administrators to be cautious. San Francisco Police were also adding extra patrols outside schools to supplement school resource officers.

The district said if it was faced with the same threat at Los Angeles, they would likely have closed schools out of an "abundance of caution,” according to SFUSD Spokeswoman Gentle Blythe. She acknowledged closing schools is a serious decision.

“A lot of times you don’t have all the information at the outset of an incident so we need to always make that decision very quickly and then get all the information afterward sometimes,” Blythe said.

Oakland Unified said it did not receive any threat, but was using today's developments to review security procedures at schools.

Jeff Godown, Police Chief for Oakland Unified Schools, said upon learning of the threat, he contacted his colleagues in Los Angeles. He said schools receiving threats is nothing new and officers must not become complacent.

“You take every threat seriously until you can determine it’s not a viable threat,” Godown said.  

A law enforcement official says the threat was emailed to a Los Angeles Unified school board member late Monday and appeared to come from overseas. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation.

Officials would not elaborate on the threat, saying it was still being evaluated, but said the shutdown came as a precaution. Schools would remain closed until the threat was cleared, which could happen by the end of the day, officials said.

Los Angeles schools commonly get threats, but Cortines called this one rare.

"It was not to one school, two schools or three schools," he said at a news conference. "It was many schools, not specifically identified. But there were many schools. That's the reason I took the action that I did ... It was to students at schools."

Cortines said he wants every campus to be searched and a report given to him and the school board that they are safe. The district has more than 900 schools and 187 public charter schools.

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

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

No students would be released on their own, and school leaders would wait with children whose parents had not yet arrived to pick them up, he said.

The closure came the same day classes were canceled at San Bernardino Valley College because of a bomb threat. Students and staff were sent home around 5:30 p.m. Monday after the threat was made.