Returning high school students found themselves thrown back into
the throes of final exams as the semester ended, with police
providing a stepped up presence at campuses to reassure those left
jittery by the unprecedented shutdown.
Authorities conducted an extensive search on Tuesday of the Los
Angeles Unified School District's more than 1,000 schools, and said
that by late in the day the buildings were safe and students could
return. The investigation to find the sender of the emailed threat
continued on Wednesday.
The email, which authorities said was routed through Germany but
likely originated locally, came nearly two weeks after a married
couple inspired by Islamic State fatally shot 14 people and wounded
22 others at a county office building 60 miles (100 km) away in San
A similar email was sent to New York City's public schools, though
officials dismissed it as a hoax and kept campuses open.
The regular morning bustle was in full display at Venice High School
on Wednesday as school buses dropped off students and other children
spilled out of parents' cars.
"I feel my daughter is totally safe at school today," said Trish
Halfacre, dropping off her 14-year-old. Halfacre said she backed the
officials who ordered the closure.
"Better safe than sorry," she said.
Several students outside the Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and
Performing Arts, a downtown campus named after the superintendent
who made the decision to close all campuses, said they also
supported the one-day interruption.
"For all we know, it could have been our school or any other ...
that could have been bombed and a lot of kids would have gotten
hurt," said 10th grader Kaniah Chapman.
Officials also said they made crisis counselors available for
students and distributed materials to teachers intended to help them
lead class discussions on the disruption.
Local television station KABC posted what it said was a copy of the
email on its website Wednesday.
"Something big is going down," the writer said, according to the
posting. "Something very big."
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The email indicated that the writer was a high school student who
claimed to be "a devout Muslim, and was once against violence, but I
have teamed up with a local jihadist cell as it is the only way I'll
be able to accomplish my massacre in the correct way."
The writer, who described high school as "absolute hell," said
gunpowder had been loaded into pressure cooker bombs hidden at
unspecified campuses, along with "nerve agents." Readers were urged
to pray to "allah," written with a lower-case "a."
New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton and federal
officials who asked not to be identified described the decision in
Los Angeles as an over-reaction.
But Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck on Tuesday defended the
school district's decision to keep students and staff home out of an
abundance of caution.
"It is very easy in hindsight to criticize the decision based on
results that the decider could never have known," Beck said.
The United States has experienced a series of attacks at schools in
recent years. The deadliest in the past decade occurred in 2007 at
Virginia Tech, where a student gunman killed 32 people.
A 20-year-old gunman in 2012 killed 20 young children and six
educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
(Additional reporting by Dana Feldman, Victoria Cavaliere and Saif
Tawfeeq in Los Angeles, Joe Kolb in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Scott
Malone in Boston and Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento; Editing by Dan
Grebler and Ken Wills)
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