Over a dozen school districts across Virginia were targeted by hoax reports of active shootings or other violence on Monday and Tuesday. That’s part of a broader wave of similar hoax calls targeting schools across the U.S.
“On Monday, Virginia State Police personnel responded to assist numerous local police and sheriff’s offices with reports of active shooters on school campuses,” Virginia State Police Public Relations Director Corinne Geller told The Virginia Star. “None of the threats were deemed valid, and the state police, through collaboration with the Virginia Fusion Center, is now working with those same local law enforcement agencies to investigate the source of the threats and to determine if there is any evidence to connect them.”
Around 1:00 p.m. Monday, Lynchburg law enforcement received a call on a non-emergency line about a machine gun in E.C. Glass High School, triggering a lockdown, according to ABC13 News. In a hoax in Loudoun County, a 911 caller reported an active shooter at two high schools, according to social media posts from the Leesburg Police and the Loudoun Sheriff’s Office. Several Hampton Roads-area districts were the targets of similar false reports on Monday morning, according to 13NewsNow. Some reports described the calls as “swatting” incidents where false reports are made to provoke over-the-top police responses, including with SWAT teams. Charlottesville High School was also the subject of a hoax call, triggering response from Charlottesville police and fire units.
“Calling in a false report to the police is illegal; our officers are currently investigating this crime,” Charlottesville said in a press release Monday. “In addition, this false report caused extreme stress and disruption at CHS and in our community. Counselors and mental health professionals are on hand at the school to speak with students and staff. We encourage families to check in with their students tonight.”
Similar reports were made in Arlington, Fauquier, Greensville, Shenandoah, Culpeper, Warren, Mecklenberg, and Spotsylvania, according to a list compiled by Twitter-based reporter Molly Conger. On Tuesday, Charlottesville law enforcement received another false report, according to NBC29.com.
FBI’s Richmond field office’s Public Affairs Specialist Dee Rybiski said in a statement, “FBI Richmond is aware of a number of swatting incidents occurring within the Commonwealth, wherein reports of an active shooter at several schools have been made.”
Governor Glenn Youngkin’s spokesperson Macaulay Porter said in a statement, “These calls are despicable and the governor takes any threat of violence against our students and their safety seriously. Governor Youngkin and his administration remain actively engaged. The state police is supporting several of the law enforcement agencies impacted by the calls and supporting them in their ongoing investigations. Last week, a similar threat occurred in Lunenburg County, which resulted in an arrest thanks to the aggressive investigative efforts of the Lunenburg County Sheriff and the Virginia State Police High Tech Crimes Division. The Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Bob Mosier is coordinating with the Virginia Fusion Center and providing assistance.”
“The attorney general is aware of threats and our office has been monitoring. Attorney General Miyares is thankful our students are safe,” Attorney General Jason Miyares’ spokesperson Victoria LaCivita said. “Calling in a false threat is illegal and is a class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.”
The Virginia State Police are investigating the reports. Geller asked that anyone with information call 911 or, to reach the VSP, call #77 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Schools in Colorado, New Mexico, and Illinois were also targeted Monday, according to social media from local officials. MyFox8.com reported that multiple schools in North Carolina were targeted Tuesday.
Last week, a series of threats and hoax calls were made against schools in Houston, Texas, according to Houston Public Media. KWCH.com reported a similar situation last week in Kansas, and noted that schools in California, Oklahoma, and Missouri all received similar calls within 48 hours of the Kansas report. Local authorities in Arkansas and Florida also reported events around the same time.
Rybiski also shared the national FBI statement: “The FBI takes swatting very seriously and will work with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners to collect, share and act upon threat information as soon as it’s brought to our attention and until such time the threat is deemed credible or not. Hoax threats cause undue stress for students, teachers, parents, and other community members – and can be prosecuted as a crime. We urge our community to remain vigilant, and report any and all suspicious activity and/or individuals to law enforcement immediately.”
Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. This article originally appeared in The Virginia Star. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of The Republican Standard. Republished with permission.