LOS ANGELES -- the Nation's Two Biggest School Systems -- New York City and Los An

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), December 16, 2015 | Go to article overview

LOS ANGELES -- the Nation's Two Biggest School Systems -- New York City and Los An


Byline: Christine Armario and Colleen Long Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- The nation's two biggest school systems -- New York City and Los Angeles -- received threats Tuesday of a large-scale jihadi attack with guns and bombs. LA reacted by shutting down the entire district, while New York dismissed the warning as an amateurish hoax and held classes.

It's extremely rare for a major U.S. city to close all its schools because of a threat and it reflected the lingering unease in Southern California following the terrorist attack that killed 14 people at a holiday luncheon two weeks ago in San Bernardino.

In LA, the threat came in the form of an email to a school board member. Authorities in New York reported receiving the same "generic" email and decided there was no danger to schoolchildren.

Mayor Bill de Blasio concluded the threat contained "nothing credible."

"It was so outlandish," he said.

New York Police Commissioner William Bratton agreed. Bratton, who was police chief in Los Angeles until 2009, said that it looked like the sender of the threat had watched a lot of the Showtime terrorism drama "Homeland."

Bratton indicated that the type of threats in the email mirrored some recent episodes of the show.

The shutdown closed both public and charter schools across Los Angeles. Officials announced Tuesday evening that schools would reopen Wednesday.

Officials in LA defended the move to shut schools, with that city's police chief dismissing the criticism as "irresponsible."

"We have suffered too many school shootings in America to ignore these kinds of threats," Chief Charlie Beck said at a news conference.

Jordan Tama, an assistant professor at American University specializing in U.S. counterterrorism policy, said it's not unreasonable for authorities in different places to make different decisions based on the same information.

"There certainly is no uniform approach," he said. "Los Angeles might make their decision based on different factors than New York and that would be the case throughout the country."

Against the backdrop of the San Bernardino attack, it's "just human nature" for LA authorities to be more cautious, Tama said.

The threatening 360-word email sent to the New York City school superintendent warned that schools would be attacked with pressure cooker bombs, nerve agents and machine guns. It claimed the writer and "138 comrades" would carry out the attack.

Students "at every school in the New York City school district will be massacred, mercilessly. And there is nothing you can do to stop it," the message said.

A law enforcement official with access to the document provided the email to The Associated Press. The official was not authorized to disclose details of an ongoing investigation and provided it only on condition of anonymity.

The anonymous writer claimed to be a student at a district high school who had been bullied. The person also claimed to be a jihadist but made errors that suggested the writer was really a prankster, including spelling the word "Allah" with a lowercase "a'' and making no reference to the Quran. …

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