On the morning of Tuesday, Dec. 15, the Los Angeles Unified School District's superintendent, Ramon Cortines, commented on his decision to close the entire school district in response to an unspecified yet "credible" bomb threat. "I am not going to take a chance with the life of a student," Cortines told The LA Times shortly after news of the threat became public. This quote highlights exactly what's important in this situation — protecting the lives of the students and all others learning and working at schools in the LAUSD — and that we can't ignore how mass violence has become the norm anymore.
After the threat was called in to a school board member Tuesday morning, the district chose to shut down immediately and search every one of its campuses, adult schools, and early education centers. The LAUSD is one of the largest school districts in the country, with over 900 schools and more than 600,000 students.
According to KTLA, the threat was "electronic" and directed toward "many schools," prompting Cortines to consult with the school police department chief and school board president. The search is assisted by the FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department, and parents have been asked to pick up the students who had already arrived at school.
Cortines told The LA Times that the LAUSD receives threats frequently, but this was a "rare threat," especially in light of recent terror attacks around the world. This threat comes less than two weeks after the shooting in San Bernardino, CA, which killed 14, and a little over a month after the attacks in Paris.
"I am not taking a chance of bringing children into a place, into any part of a building, until I know that it’s safe," Cortines continued. In the meantime, school bus drivers have returned to their depots, and students and staff were advised to keep away from the campuses until the search concludes.
Cortines admitted that shutting down hundreds of schools may have come from an "abundance of caution," but such caution is understandable right now. In October, The Washington Post reported that the United States had seen 294 mass shootings in just 274 days, which averages to more than one shooting a day. That was two months ago. Since then, we have seen yet more instances of violence, from the Colorado Springs attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic that killed three to the aforementioned San Bernardino shooting, which has been called the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11.
There's no denying that mass shootings have seared themselves into public consciousness this year, but again and again, nothing is done to change things. We weep for the victims and rail against the laws that allow anyone buy murder weapons, but the status quo persists. Three years after the Sandy Hook shooting, you'd think that laws would have been passed to make schools safer nationwide, and yet the LAUSD still receives threats "all the time," by the superintendent's own admission. Although this was not a gun threat, it's hard to ignore the greater context — one incident after another of mass shootings. Gun control remains a deeply divisive issue, largely dictated by party loyalty. People say that guns don't kill people, but it's clear that those wielding them do kill people — and they aren't having any trouble getting what they need to do it.
The LAUSD is currently tweeting updates and instructions for parents and students as they occur.
A press conference has been scheduled for Tuesday morning, 9 a.m. PST.