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Swatting calls across the U.S. leave students ‘in constant state of fear’

Fake reports of gun violence — otherwise known as “swatting” is on the rise — NPR recently reported that there have been over 180 false reports of school threats in 28 states between Sept. 13 and Oct. 21 alone.

Video Transcript

PAUL HARRINGTON: Unfortunately, all in one day, 17 communities got hit with a swatting call. Students in the classroom don't know that it's not a shooting. Mentally, they're thinking that they're about to die.

MAC HARDY: We've been very concerned about this because false alarms cause people to become complacent.

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- It is called swatting when bogus 911 calls are made trying to draw SWAT teams or police to a certain spot.

PAUL HARRINGTON: It was pretty heart-wrenching. I received a phone call that our middle school, you know, had a potential active shooter. Within minutes of that phone call, we received the second call that one of our older elementary schools was going into lockdown for the potential shooter. Right from the beginning, seemed a little off. But obviously, we have to take every call serious. Immediately, all our officers were on guard that this could potentially be a swatting incident.

DAVID RIEDMAN: Real or false, somebody just has to take action immediately. It's taking place at schools all over the country, because if somebody provides a description of a situation that sounds like a school shooting, there's no choice other than having all of the police resources in that jurisdiction respond to it.

PAUL HARRINGTON: As soon as we were given the all clear, I tried to reunite the kids with their parents as quick as possible. What I saw on parents' face and kids' faces was an image I never want to see ever again.

DAVID RIEDMAN: So there's a tremendous amount of emotional trauma that that causes. Students think that they're going to die. They're texting goodbye, I love you to their parents. They're traumatized. They're scared to go back to school the next day. In some cases, some of these hoax threats have closed schools down for multiple days, and now kids are out of their routine. What's really different with the swatting in the last couple months is it appears that a lot of these hoax calls have originated overseas.

MAC HARDY: The FBI is investigating these. And hopefully they can come up to some conclusions and help stop some of these calls from being made.

PAUL HARRINGTON: They haven't made any arrests yet. I know that the case has been turned over to the FBI. The FBI is diligently investigating the case.

MAC HARDY: When we figure out a way to prosecute these and come up with probable cause of who did it and be able to prove that, I think we'll be able to stop some of this.

DAVID RIEDMAN: If there is a continued flood of different jokes and hoaxes and false reports like this, people may stop taking it seriously. And the consequence of either police or school not taking something seriously is that if a real shooting were to happen, nobody would respond.