Friday, February 23, 2024

School bomb threats had "low credibility"

Editor | January 25, 2024 12:00 AM

A grim email message arrived in the in-boxes of more than 200 Montana schools last week.

Employees of the Ronan School District, including Pablo Elementary principal Ryan Fisher and the Ronan business clerk, received three threats late Jan. 16 that read:

Hello, my name is Timerzi Haashra and i represent a Houthi group called "انتقام". America has commited acts of great injustice against our country and for that they will pay with the blood of their children. By the time you recieve this it is too late, we have planted explosives in your school. You will not find them so do not bother looking. America has served our country with acts of violence, and in return your children will bleed and suffer. Next time, do not attack us.

According to Superintendent Mark Johnston, the district responded Jan. 17 with an SMS message alerting staff and parents to check the Ronan School District website for more information. In the web post, Johnston said he had been in touch with local law enforcement, including Lake County Sheriff Don Bell, “and we are in mutual agreement that this mass email has low credibility.”

The  FBI, Homeland Security, U.S. Attorney’s Office, State Attorney General and the Governor’s Office were all alerted to the messages flooding Montana schools.

Charlo Superintendent Steve Love said his district received three threatening emails, all sent to unused email addresses.

St. Ignatius Superintendent Jason Sargent said Mission schools were not a target. “We have not had a bomb threat for over 12 years,” he added. “The last time we had a bomb threat it was a student and the student was caught, cited by law enforcement and expelled from school.”

Johnston, in his update to parents and staff, noted that the email was sent to between 200 and 300 schools statewide, as well as school board members and other school officials. “This email was deemed unsubstantiated by every agency that has investigated it. I know that there are still agencies, like the FBI and Homeland Security, who are trying to determine where this email came from,” he wrote.

“We do not believe there is any abnormal threat to our schools,” he added. “We are planning to have school as usual. Yet all threats against our schools will be taken seriously.”

He also told parents and staff that a similar threatening email was apparently circulated among schools along the East Coast a couple of months ago.

“I am also aware that school districts around our State handled this situation differently,” he wrote. “It was everything from closing schools for the day to throwing it in the trash like it was never received.”

In a separate email, he told the Leader, “I cannot stress enough that all districts take these types of situations seriously. We have difficult decisions to make, and they are usually done with the help of many different individuals or entities. Most of us have and will continue to put much of our financial resources into making our schools as safe as possible because we know staff and students must feel safe in order to teach and learn.”

According to Undersheriff Ben Woods, the emails were also received by Polson and Bigfork schools.

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