MORE THAN ONE thousand schools were closed in Los Angeles, California, today over a credible but unspecified threat.
The school district authorities announced the closure of 1,087 public schools in the city just after 3pm Irish time (7am in Los Angeles) after receiving the threat.
“Earlier this morning we did receive an electronic threat that mentions the safety of our schools,” Steven Zipperman, the head of the Los Angeles school police department, told a press conference.
“We have chosen to close our schools today until we can be absolutely sure that our campuses are safe”.
Students and staff were advised to stay away from all buildings.
District spokeswoman Shannon Haber said the threat was sent by email to a school board member and was believed to have come from an IP address in Frankfurt, Germany. The email was specific to all the campuses in the district and included implied threats about explosive devices, assault rifles and machine pistols.
It also discussed backpacks and talked about other packages.
“It was not to one school, two schools or three schools. It was many schools, not specifically identified,” said police superintendent Ramon Cortines.
“That’s the reason I took the action that I did… It was to students at schools”.
More than 640,000 students aged between four and 18 attend public schools in Los Angeles. The district is vast, spanning around 720 square miles (1,864 kilometres).
The Los Angeles Police Department and the FBI are investigating the threat.
Lupita Vela, who has a daughter in the third grade and a son who is a high school senior, called the threat “absolutely terrifying” in light of the San Bernardino attack, which killed 14 people earlier this month.
She got an automated phone call informing her of the closure.
“I know the kids are anxious,” she said.
Vela said she worries about talking to her kids about the threat and terrorism in general. She’s concerned about her daughter feeling safe in class.
“I don’t want this to be in the back of her head,” she said. “Who knows what it does psychologically to kids? Is this going to cause her some kind of trauma so that she’s not going to feel safe at school?”
Meanwhile, the New York Police Department has said there was a “specific but non-credible” threat made to schools in New York this morning.
New York Police Commissioner William Bratton said he thought Los Angeles officials overreacted.
The person who wrote the note claimed to be a jihadist, but made errors that made it clear the person was a prankster, Bratton said.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters that he was “absolutely convinced” there was no danger to schoolchildren in his city.
“There was nothing credible about the threat. It was so outlandish,” de Blasio said.
Originally published 3.22pm
Additional reporting by Órla Ryan, with reporting from Associate Press.