Active shooter hoaxes disrupt several high school campuses

Law enforcement personnel responded to several high schools Wednesday morning after active shooter prank phone calls were received by police dispatch centers.

The false reports caused at least two high schools to go into lockdown. Officials reported that all the incidents were hoaxes and there were no injuries or weapons discovered. 

Believing there was an active shooter in the school and an injured student, 75 Twin Falls area law enforcement personnel descended on Canyon Ridge High School Wednesday morning. Two police “elements” entered the building to search and secure the school, said Twin Falls Chief of Police Craig Kingsbury during a press conference.

But thankfully, Kingsbury said, the report was a hoax. Similar hoaxes were reported at five Idaho high schools.

“This type of call angers me immensely because someone put this out, and scared so many of us in our community,” Kingsbury said.

At the Statehouse, the false alarms caused a few anxious moments Wednesday morning during a House Education Committee hearing.

Rep. Greg Lanting, a Twin Falls Republican and retired school superintendent, announced reports of an active shooter situation at his hometown. Committee Chair Julie Yamamoto paused the committee meeting to allow legislators a moment to pray.

A few moments later, Lanting told committee members that the reports had proven false.

At the Twin Falls press conference, Kingsbury said this is the kind of call that peace officers dread. 

“I will just apologize on behalf of the bad people out there who called in this hoax,” Kingsbury said. “We responded with every law enforcement officer, who came out ready to lay down their life.”

EdNews compiled a list of schools targeted by the hoaxes from district websites, newspapers, press releases and official statements:

  • Canyon Ridge High School in Twin Falls
  • Highland High School in Pocatello
  • Columbia High School in Nampa
  • Caldwell High School in Caldwell
  • Capital High School in Boise

At least one school district, Castleford, placed its schools in “hall check” mode out of an abundance of caution “after receiving information of a threat at a neighboring school district.” Exterior doors were locked, and classes continued normally with all students remaining indoors. The “hall check” ended after local police determined there was no longer a concern. 

In the past week, similar instances involving hoax calls have been made in Oregon, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada, according to the Caldwell Police Department. 

State superintendent Debbie Critchfield released a statement on the hoaxes: “I am aware that several schools were impacted today by threats of violence, and that the threats do not appear to be valid. State Department of Education staff have been in touch with districts and will continue to stay apprised of the situation. I’m thankful for the quick action from school administrators and law enforcement to ensure the safety of students in the affected schools.”

In an update on their Facebook page, Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25 officials warned parents about “swatting,” an action or practice of making a prank call to emergency services in an attempt to bring about the dispatch of a large number of armed police officers to a particular address. Highland High School reported a fake news story circulating about a fatality incident there.

In Twin Falls, Wednesday’s swatting prank traumatized students and parents. During the press conference, law enforcement officials said “very upset parents were showing up.” 

Many parents were reading social media posts and receiving notifications from students inside the building and others who fled, who believed there was a shooter in the building. Adding to the chaos, a Life Flight helicopter landed nearby as a precaution.

“Parents were in tears,” officials said. “They believed it was real, and thank God it was not.”

Officials ask anyone with information about the person or persons who called in the pranks to contact their local law enforcement office.

Twin Falls School District administrators and Twin Falls law enforcement wrapped up Wednesday’s press conference by asking parents to check in with their kids to make sure they’re okay and make sure they understand that the good guys are going to be responding.

Reporters Kevin Richert and Carly Flandro contributed to this report. 

Darren Svan

Darren Svan

Reporter Darren Svan has a background in both journalism and education. Prior to working for military schools at overseas installations, he was news editor at several publications in Wyoming and Colorado. You can send news tips to [email protected].

Get EdNews in your inbox

Weekly round up every Friday