OVER half a million schoolchildren were sent home yesterday December 15 when Los Angeles authorities reacted to a suspected terrorist threat issued through an email server in Frankfurt. An identical threat was made against the New York City school system but officials there decided it was a hoax.
The Californian district was facing scrutiny for its decision to send home roughly 640,000 pupils in light of an FBI search of 1,500 sites, later pronounced safe, and criticism from New York for an alleged overreaction.
Officials in Los Angeles pointed to the recent San Bernadino massacre, just 50 miles away, which left 14 people dead on December 2, as justification for a safety first approach. Charlie Beck of the Los Angeles Police Department stated “It is very easy in hindsight to criticize a decision based on results that the deciders could have never known”, while Mayor Eric Garcetti said “Whether it’s criminal mischief, whether it’s somebody testing vulnerabilities of multiple cities, we still do not know enough to say definitively. What we do know is that it will be safe for our children to return to school tomorrow.”
New York officials have, however, criticised the response as a potential catalyst for copycat attacks which could be used to cause mayhem and mischief and create an environment of fear.
New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, said “There was nothing credible about the threat. It was so generic, so outlandish and posed to numerous school systems simultaneously.”