FBI, state police investigate ‘swatting’ hoax calls to Massachusetts schools

School Swatting Hoax

After receiving more than a dozen swatting threats against Massachusetts schools, local police, as well as the FBI and Massachusetts State Police are investigating who made the anonymous threats directed to the schools and prompted them to go into lockdown.

“The first thing I did was pick up my phone and text my kid if they were okay,” said Tracy O’Connell Novick, a Worcester school committee member and parent of a Worcester student who had a threat made against it. “That, I’m sure was replicated by thousands of families across Massachusetts yesterday. Your first thought is your kid okay.”

O’Connell Novick described her emotions Monday as a school in Worcester had a threat made against it. Then, on Tuesday, she called on Governor Maura Healey and the FBI to take action against the threats.

In a statement released to ABC 6 News, Kristen Setera with the FBI Boston Division said:

The FBI is aware of the numerous swatting incidents wherein a report of an active shooter at a school is made and is working alongside our law enforcement partners in identifying the source of the hoax threats. Due to the ongoing investigation, we are unable to provide more details. However, it is important to note that law enforcement is going to use all available resources to investigate a school threat until we determine whether it is real or not. Investigating hoax threats drains law enforcement resources and diverts us from responding to an actual crisis. Hoax threats can shut down schools, cause undue stress and fear to the public, and cost taxpayers a lot of money. We urge the public to remain vigilant, and report any and all suspicious activity and individuals to law enforcement immediately.

Massachusetts State Police are also involved in the investigation, and in a Wednesday morning update, told us no arrests have been, and that no schools have received any further threats against them.

A spokesperson for state police also added that they are working alongside schools to document any further threats, and the source of these hoax calls could be connected to similar swatting calls from a few years ago.

Massachusetts Commissioner for Elementary and Secondary Education Jeff Riley said: “Throughout the Commonwealth, schools and districts have received training and technical assistance on developing high quality Emergency Response Plans for keeping students, faculty, and staff safe, healthy, and supported during emergencies that include incidents of swatting.”

O’Connell Novick responded by saying while she appreciates schools being prepared for dangerous situations, the state legislature also has to take action to protect schools and students.

“That isn’t actually the answer. That’s playing defense rather than actually fixing the situation,” O’Connell Novick said. “I need to know that this isn’t only left to the local police force. Local police do all they can. But we know that’s really a state and federal responsibility.”

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