JUST IN: LA Unified closed due to ‘serious’ threat to schools
Mike Szymanski | December 15, 2015
All LAUSD schools were closed today due to a “serious threat” called into the district.
The threat was not aimed at any specific school, but was judged credible enough for school officials to close all the campuses, which serve 643,000 students in 900 traditional and 200 charter schools.
“This is a rare threat, we get threats all the time, but due to the circumstances in neighboring San Bernardino and what’s happening in the nation, what happening internationally, I as superintendent am not going to take the chance with the life of a student,” Ramon Cortines, the out-going superintendent, said at an impromptu press conference.
He later confirmed reports that the threat came to the district “from overseas.” Shannon Haber, the district spokeswoman, confirmed that an email was sent to a member of the school board last night suggesting a threat involving “backpacks or packages.” She also said the email came from an IP address in Frankfurt, Germany.
The New York Times reported that New York City officials said that they had received a similar threat but had concluded that it was a hoax. The paper quoted Mayor Bill de Blasio saying he was “absolutely convinced” that there was no danger to schoolchildren in New York.
Cortines said schools would remain closed until the authorities have searched all school sites and determined they were safe for students and staff to return. He said the district would issue a statement later in the day, with an update on the results. He also said that city police and the FBI were assisting with the threat assessment.
In a statement, Mayor Eric Garcetti said, “As Mayor, we have shared our support and our intelligence and LAPD is working in collaboration with LAUSD School Police to fully investigate this threat. We have also asked our Emergency Operations Center to be activated and we have arranged for MTA to help by providing free bus rides to all LAUSD students. We will continue to monitor this situation.”
School board president Steve Zimmer spoke directly to families and employees of parents with children, asking that employers consider flexibility with single mothers and parents of children in school. “The safety of the students and every employee is absolute,” Zimmer said.
“Nothing is more important than the safety of kids, even more than their education, and the board feels this appropriate at this time,” he said.
Neither Cortines nor Steve Zipperman, chief of the LA Unified school police, disclosed any details of the threat, other than to say “a message” reached the district early this morning and was deemed serious enough to take extraordinary action.
“This was not to one school, two schools or three schools,”: Cortines said of the threat. “It was to many schools. It did not specifically identify any of them.”
Zimmer said, “It’s going to be a long day, we will make sure that every campus is secure.”
The following school districts remained open: Azusa, Baldwin Park, Bassett, Bellflower, Little Lake City, Lynwood, Montebello, Norwalk-La Mirada, Pomona, Santa Monica-Malibu and Whittier Union High School.
- Adds details of how threat was conveyed, threat to schools in New York City and statement from LA Mayor Eric Garcetti.