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“Crush” in schools: the police investigate false information

(NewsNation) – Law enforcement is responding to reports of school shootings across the country that turn out to be completely untrue.

It’s a practice the FBI calls “swatting,” which the agency defines as simulating an emergency that draws a response from law enforcement — usually a SWAT team.

Even if these threats turn out to be a complete fabrication, students, staff and parents still feel the same fear when they see a huge police response on campus. And law enforcement says that if they get these kinds of calls, they don’t hold back on their response.

In the past few weeks alone, threats have forced the lockdown of dozens of schools in multiple states, including several schools in Texas, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Missouri and Virginia, according to EdWeek.

Footage from Thomas Jefferson High School in San Antonio shows parents rushing to hug their students. Police later established that no shootings took place – instead, some students got into an altercation, but denied having or displaying a weapon. The frightened students, however, had already called their parents, who converged on the school, where there were 29 school district officers and 58 city police officers.

One man even pushed his fist through a window to enter the building, lacerating his arm in the process, the Associated Press reported.

“Until law enforcement clears the place or satisfies it as a prank, they’re going to pretend it’s real,” former FBI Special Agent Stuart Kaplan said. “It’s a very dangerous scenario for law enforcement, as well as the person on the other side.”

Experts say some of the threats are discovered on social media or smartphone apps which can be difficult to trace, and it’s often minors behind the false reports.

“Any time the phone rings and it’s a possible active shooter, we have to accept that as the real deal and leave,” Kaplan said.

On Twitter last week, the Houston FBI wrote that making threats of violence against a school had consequences whether they were joking or not. If a suspect behind a false threat is a minor, they may face suspension, expulsion, or even criminal prosecution. Adults can face serious legal penalties for running over, including possible incarceration and fines.

Amy Klinger, director of programs for The Educators’ School Safety Network, said it was important to remind people that the crush is not a joke or a prank.

“This is a really serious situation that puts a lot of people at risk and puts a lot of people at risk, while inflicting trauma and anxiety on everyone involved,” she said. “So it’s not something that should be taken lightly by anyone.”

“You create this high level of anxiety, you erode trust in the organization,” Klinger continued. “Can they really protect me? Is it really a dangerous place? And it even exacerbates and creates more threats.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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