The Nebraska State Patrol says at least 5 school districts across the state were the targets Thursday of hoax calls made to local 911 centers claiming school shootings had taken or were taking place.
State Patrol spokesman Cody Thomas says no such school shootings took place anywhere in Nebraska and that the calls appear to be part of a series of such calls across the country so far this year.
Thomas says the Nebraska Information Analysis Center, part of the Patrol, sent a bulletin earlier this week to law enforcement agencies across the state and the state Education Department on “swatting” calls reported in at least 9 states.
Thomas says the bulletin advised local law enforcement agencies to be prepared in the event the calls targeted Nebraska schools, which happened yesterday – adding that there have been distinct similarities in all the calls everywhere.
Those include using VOIP technology to mask the caller’s identity and location, using a foreign accent, mispronouncing school or town names, and pretending the caller was hiding inside the school.
Gering High School was one of the targets with a call to the dispatch center about 8:30 reporting a student with a gun.
Gering police and other law enforcement agencies in the area were immediately dispatched to Gering High and the school district’s crisis plan was activated. SWAT teams performed walk-throughs at all Gering High buildings to confirm it was a hoax.
The Chadron school district used its Remind notification system to spread word of the hoaxes in Gering, Valentine, and Kearney as well as to reassure parents and other patrons the district has procedures in place for this and other situations.
The message said the district takes any report seriously and initiates a lockdown with law enforcement responding to investigate and keep students and staff safe.