School-based bomb threats are increasing at an alarming rate according to a well-known national school safety expert who just completed extensive research on bomb threat incidents.
School safety expert Dr. Amy Klinger says her research over the last 18 months shows a dramatic increase in school-based bomb threat incidents both over the last few years and specifically during the 2015-16 academic year.
“While incidents have been gradually increasing since 2012, so far this school year U.S. schools have experienced 745 bomb threats, an increase of 143 percent compared to that same time period in 2012-2013,” Klinger said. “While this report focuses on United States schools, our data indicates that this is an international phenomena as well, with school-related bomb incidents occurring at an increased rate in virtually every continent in more than 17 different countries this school year alone.”
Klinger serves as associate professor of educational administration at Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio, and also heads up the Educator’s School Safety Network, a national non-profit school safety organization based in Ohio.
“The vast majority of media reports related to school safety this school year have been about bomb threats,” Klinger said. “From the high profile national reporting of coordinated national bomb threats closing literally thousands of schools in a single day to the local concerns of an evacuated school, it seems that bomb threats are currently a daily occurrence in schools.”
She said those at the Educator’s School Safety Network (ESSN) believe it is critical to move from mere speculation on this issue to actual facts and data. “The ESSN has compiled the most current information on bomb incidents in America’s schools to determine the scope and severity of the bomb incident problem,” she said.
Klinger said in addition to the dramatic increase in the sheer number of threats, other unique trends have emerged that indicate a need for concern. “These include the scope and frequency of the events, the delivery methods of the threats, the perpetrators of these incidents, and the atypical locations of the incidents themselves,” she said.
At the same time, she noted, school administrators and law enforcement officials find themselves in the position of having to make critical decisions about bomb threat incidents with few established best practices, outdated protocols and a lack of education-based training.
Klinger said more significantly, many school leaders do not understand the potentially catastrophic effects of a bomb incident or do not have the requisite skills to respond appropriately and effectively. “It is critical that educational leaders do not abdicate their decision making authority to law enforcement officials or prematurely dismiss bomb threat incidents as a ‘nuisance’,” she said.
“Based on our analysis of bomb threat data and trends, the sobering reality is that an explosive device will be detonated in an American school, and we must be ready,” Klinger said. “The question that must be considered is not ‘if’ an explosive device will be detonated in a school but rather ‘when.’
“We think it is critical to stop speculating, relying on ‘expert impressions’ or utilizing outdated information and anecdotes. Instead we must objectively and factually determine the nature, scope and severity of the problem,” she said.
With this in mind, Klinger said her report has two important purposes:
1. To provide educational and law enforcement communities with the most current data and analysis available on the rate, frequency, severity, scope and nature of bomb incidents in the United States. While components of the report are longitudinal in nature, the primary thrust of the document is to provide an up-to-date analysis of reported bomb threat incidents in school that have occurred so far in the 2015-2016 academic school year.
2. To provide school and law enforcement responders with an overview and understanding of the critical trends and warning signs that have emerged from the analysis of recent incidents. Because the data collection and analysis is on-going during this school year, issues and concerns are still emerging, however there are recommendations and areas of concern that must be immediately addressed.
“It is critical for educators and emergency responders to be equally involved in training, prevention and response as it pertains to violence in schools – particularly in terms of bomb-related incidents,” Klinger said. “Educators must secure a prominent ‘seat at the table’ and be active, equal partners in preventing and responding to bomb threat incidents.”
The full report can be accessed at: www.eschoolsafety.org/bir-2016/. An executive summary of the report and additional information about The Educator’s School Safety Network can be accessed at www.eSchoolSafety.org. Please contact Dr. Amy Klinger at 419-699-4657, [email protected], or [email protected] for more information or interviews.