Law enforcement and elected leaders are becoming more concerned after threats and false reports of shooters have been pouring into schools and colleges across the U.S. for months. Schools in Pennsylvania were the latest targeted of so-called swatting. Computer-generated calls on Wednesday made claims about active shooters, but it was a hoax, according to the Associated Press. A day earlier, nearly 30 Massachusetts schools received fake threats. School officials are already on edge amid a backdrop of deadly school shootings, the latest at a Christian school in Nashville. Hundreds of cases of swatting occur annually, with some using caller ID spoofing to disguise their number. The goal is to get authorities, particularly a SWAT team, to respond to an address. The FBI believes the wave of false threats on schools may be coming from outside the U.S.
Officials identified calls to about 250 colleges, 100 high schools, and several junior high schools since last June falsely reporting explosive devices being planted at the schools or saying that a shooting was imminent. Law enforcement had to take each one seriously no matter how dubious it seemed. Police in Pittsburgh searched every room at Central Catholic High School, even after getting word within a minute that a report of people being hurt inside wasn’t true, said interim police chief Thomas Stangrecki. “We treated it as a real incident,” he said. The FBI said it “takes swatting very seriously because it puts innocent people at risk.” In Iowa, so many schools were targeted this month that Gov. Kim Reynolds complained about the toll it was taking to confirm the terror-inducing calls are fake, “It’s what no governor, it’s what no parent or anybody — superintendent, teachers, kids — want to hear,” Reynolds said. “And we’re grateful and just so thankful that is what it was.”