In the past several weeks, numerous communities in the Bergen and Passaic County areas were affected by “swatting” incidents. Garfield, Hackensack, and Passaic all were directly targeted by anonymous, computer generated phone calls that have been plaguing numerous school systems nationwide. These calls are made at various times and have thus far been untraceable to the source, as they are apparently redirected from several Internet locations. These calls have ranged from unspecified bomb threats to mass shooting attacks. Of course, local law enforcement and your security team take all threats seriously and take all precautions to ensure the safety and security of the students, staff and schools.
These incidents have caused minor disruptions in our operations, but I am proud to say that the students and staff have done a stellar job of working collaboratively. In all cases, the security team are in close communication with the local Police Departments and return the schools to normal operations once the threat was properly investigated. In some cases, a K-9 response may be warranted, in others, depending on the specificity of the threat, we will establish a shelter-in-place, lock-down or evacuation, as the situation dictates.
You often ask why and what is the difference between the various responses? A shelter-in-place is just that. Virtually normal operations continue in the school building with staff and students changing classes, etc. but entry in/out of the building is restricted. While the specific reason for a shelter-in-place is to bring students to interior spaces in the event of a haz-mat release in the area, we use this procedure to minimize movement in the school, while continuing operations. This is what we did last week in Bergen schools in conformity with Garfield and Hackensack schools.
A lock-down is the next, most restrictive method of maintaining the safety of our students and staff. Doors are locked, shades are drawn, students are QUIET!, and all internal movements are restricted. Law enforcement will be responsible for clearing the building to ensure the threat has passed.
An evacuation is another option, depending on the situation and may require the entire student body to move to an exterior rally point, or in the case of a longer period, we have secondary, interior locations to move students to that may require parents to respond to pick up the student.
Law enforcement, including the FBI are investigating these swatting events, but our staff are looking at ways we can establish procedures and awareness to mitigate these threats to our schools.
In each of the previous cases, I was personally in touch with the law enforcement leadership of the various police departments to debrief and critique the responses and communication conduit to ensure we continue to enhance our response capabilities on behalf of the safety and security of our students and staff.
Lastly, you can be of great assistance, as many of you have been these past weeks, in communicating to us directly if you hear of incidents in the community that may affect our schools. This way we ensure there are no gaps in communication. Additionally, please refrain from calling the offices to inquire what is going on. We may be knee-deep in a response and your calls may inhibit our ability to communicate and respond. Be patient, we will advise you promptly through our various notification methods.
As always, THANK YOU for your caring and support. We are grateful for your involvement and willingness to work with us as we maintain a safe and secure environment for the education of your children!
Leo P. McGuire, MBA
Sr.VP Strategy and Risk Management
iLearn Schools, Inc.