SROs share how schools can minimize disruptions caused by swatting hoaxes

"When schools close or evacuate for a communicated threat that isn't credible, the perpetrators get exactly what they want," said Mo Canady, executive director for the National Association of School Resource Officers.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a number of new security challenges upend school systems at a time when school safety has become a top priority among educators and district leaders. One of the most pressing issues disrupting school operations is the epidemic of swatting hoaxes, the malicious practice of reporting a false threat to spark fear and potentially interrupt learning for the day—or longer. The greatest challenge, experts tell us, is determining whether or not to cancel school while law enforcement assesses the threat’s credibility. It’s a complex scenario that requires an “assess then react” approach because shutting down schools in response to a false report is just what these terrorizers want.

That’s according to a new guidance from the National Association of School Resource Officers, a non-profit for school-based law enforcement officers and other safety professionals. NASRO Executive Director Mo Canady advises education leaders to remain vigilant in these times of uncertainty.

“Regardless of motive, the less disruption a school allows, the less perpetrators will be encouraged to send hoax threats,” he said in a statement.

His advice comes at a time when research suggests there have been at least 69 “false reports” against K12 schools between the start of the 2023-24 school year and Dec. 28, according to a live swatting tracker from the Educator’s School Safety Network.

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Just last month, several school districts in central Ohio fell victim to false threats originating outside the United States, a common trend among many swatting calls. According to WSYX ABC 6, the messages included forms of violence against specific schools across eight districts. According to a message to parents from Dublin City Schools, the threat made mention of “explosives being planted in American school buildings.”

Most districts that received the messages chose to bolster security measures the upcoming week as authorities determined it was safe for them to return to normal operations, WSYX ABC 6 reported.

Canady noted that in most cases, students are better off at school when a threat like this occurs.

“For many threats, including bomb threats, students are usually safer in their classrooms than outside the building,” he said in a statement. “If a real attacker knows, for example, that a school will evacuate to a football stadium, they could be waiting to attack students there.”

The NASRO recommends that administrators ought to consult with law enforcement agencies at the local, state and federal levels as they develop strategies for responding to swatting threats. An ideal policy reduces the likelihood of the “most disruptive actions,” including the dismissal of students, evacuations and the cancelation of classes. They should also incorporate strategies that allow administrators to communicate reliable information with parents as quickly as possible when an event like this occurs. Parents who don’t receive trustworthy updates from their local schools are likely to respond to rumors, inevitably flooding their school’s parking to only exacerbate the disruption.

“When schools close or evacuate for a communicated threat that isn’t credible, the perpetrators get exactly what they want,” said Canady.

Micah Ward
Micah Ward
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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