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Los Angeles school closures and bomb threat: what we know

Students line up for a school bus on the first day of school in Los Angeles this year.
Students line up for a school bus on the first day of school in Los Angeles this year.
Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest in the US, canceled school at the last minute today because a school board member received a threat of violence that included both assault rifles and explosives.

The decision kept nearly 700,000 students, faculty, and staff home from more than 900 schools. And it's a decision that many are now second-guessing. While little information has emerged about the threat itself, New York police say they received the same one, and decided it was "not a credible threat," Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said. Bratton called the decision to close schools in Los Angeles an "overreaction."

But in the wake of the San Bernardino shooting, Los Angeles school and city officials weren't willing to take the risk.

"We are doing everything possible to make sure that children are safe," said Ramon Cortines, LAUSD's superintendent, saying schools will be closed until district officials are satisfied that they can reopen.

At a press conference this afternoon, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck refused to say if the threat was considered credible or not credible, saying the police are still investigating.

"Will there be school tomorrow?" a reporter yelled at the end of a city press conference at 1:30 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday. There was no response.

Here's what we know and don't know about the situation in Los Angeles:

What we know

  • The threat was made electronically during the night against multiple schools — "not one school or two school or three schools," Cortines said.
  • U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman reviewed the email, according to the Los Angeles Times, and said it claimed to be from an "extremist Muslim" with ties to jihad.
  • Sherman told the Los Angeles Times that "the text of the email does not demonstrate that the author has studied Islam or has any particular understanding of Islam."
  • The threat came from an e-mail account associated with an IP address in Frankfurt, Germany, a school district spokeswoman told Reuters.
  • The actual email was probably not sent from Germany, Beck said.
  • The threat specifically referred to the Los Angeles school district and not to other districts or private schools in the area, Beck said.
  • The Los Angeles police department did not recommend on whether the city's schools should close or not, Beck said.
  • Los Angeles police and city officials contacted federal law enforcement officials, although it's not entirely clear if they did so before the district made its decision.
  • The FBI is assisting with the investigation, according to CBS News.
  • All schools will be searched today, and anything "out of order" will be reported to police.
  • "The threat is a serious threat," school board president Steve Zimmer said in an interview with TV station KTLA-5, saying the board felt it was the "appropriate action" because the district does not feel it can assure students' safety.

What we don't know

  • Why Los Angeles officials found the threat was credible when New York officials did not.
  • What advice Los Angeles school district officials sought before choosing to close schools.
  • Who made the threat, and for what reason.

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