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The Daily Tar Heel

Study finds school bomb threats have increased over 1,400 percent since 2011

The study, conducted by the Educator’s School Safety Network, examined school bomb threats reported by the media. During the 2015-16 school year, over 1,200 incidents occurred nationwide, with 26 in North Carolina.

Amy Klinger, the organization’s co-founder and an author of the study, said the number of threats has continued to rise this academic year.

“We are definitely on pace for more threats than we had last year,” she said.

According to the study over half of bomb threats are called in, 32 percent are found written in the school and 10 percent are found via email or social media.

Jeff Nash, spokesperson for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, said in an email that the school system has not had any bomb threats recently.

Klinger said threats don’t often result in actual bombs, which puts schools in a difficult situation.

“Do you react to the bomb threat, and then, usually it causes more of them,” she said. “Or do you not react and not acknowledge it and then roll the dice whether the kids are safe?”

Klinger said the number of detonations has also risen — from one incident last school year to four detonations between August to October.

She said even false threats have tangible costs.

“When you have an average of seven or eight bomb threats a day in the United States, that’s police, fire, teachers, administrators, all sorts of people doing something different than what they should be doing,” she said.

Scott Poland, a psychologist and school safety expert at Nova Southeastern University, said in an email that bomb threats increase due to media coverage of school and police shootings.

He said an event last year — where schools in New York City and Los Angeles received the same electronic bomb threat, but the Los Angeles Unified School District cancelled school and the New York City Department of Education opted to stay open — shows how difficult these situations can be.

“I believe school in Los Angeles should have stayed open with increased police and security presence,” he said. “Many threats are from students as a joke or attempt to get out of class. Teachers and parents need to let students know the consequences for making a bomb threat are severe.”

Klinger said an increasing number of threats have come from non-students, especially at elementary schools.

Teachers and school faculty are often inadequately trained to respond to bomb threats and many schools have dangerous or outdated evacuation policies, Klinger said.

“There are absolutely things you can do to stop bomb threats and respond better,” she said. “But people need to get the training.”

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