Los Angeles school district decided to close dozens of public schools across the city due to receiving a credible threat on Tuesday while police sweeps of every school were underway. The Los Angeles Unified School District is the second largest in the nation and enrolls more than 640,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade, according to its website. More than 900 schools and 187 public charter schools are in the district, covering 720 square miles.
Superintendent Ramon Cortines said the warning involved multiple schools, but didn’t identify any specifically. He said he ordered the unprecedented move because he didn’t want to “take a chance” given the Dec. 2 massacre in San Bernardino and other recent mass shootings. In New York, home of the country’s largest school district, authorities said the city had received an identical, anonymous threat but determined that it appeared to be bogus. Other school districts around the country got it too, they said. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said students would be permitted to ride city buses and trains for free. The threat itself — focused on the school district, and no other institutions — is still being investigated and vetted, officials said. The impact of the last-minute closure was expected to ripple through the city, as thousands of working parents were forced to attend to their children or find backup care.
In Los Angeles, some students already had gone to school when the decision was made to close them. Authorities said officials at individual schools would stay with students until their parents could pick them up. “We need the cooperation of all of Los Angeles today,” said school board president Steve Zimmer. “We need families and neighbors to work together with our schools and with our employees to make sure our kids are safe throughout the day.”
Schools police Chief Steven Zipperman said an electronic threat “mentioned the safety of all of our schools.” Cortines pointed out that district schools often go into lockdown in response to nearby real or potential dangers. The threat in this case was “not to one school, two schools, three schools. It was many schools, not specifically identified.” In addition to school police, the Los Angeles Police Department and FBI are also investigating.Zipperman said that, as far as he knows, the Los Angeles district is the only school system in the country to receive such a threat. “We need families and neighbors to work together with our schools and with our employees to make sure our schools are safe throughout today,” school board president Steve Zimmer said.New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said a similar threat was made there, but schools were not closed. He dismissed the threat in New York as “nothing credible,” adding that the language used was “outlandish.”