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Tuesday, October 20, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Several local schools locked down, evacuated after phone threats

From staff and wire reports

Threats made against schools across the United States, including in the Inland Northwest, led to the evacuation of students Monday in what could be the latest example of so-called “swatting” against schools.

In recent months, hoaxers playing online games allegedly have used proxy servers and other high-tech identity-disguising tools to anonymously threaten schools online or in phone messages with electronic voices to trigger a huge police response, including SWAT teams.

At least three schools in the Spokane area were evacuated or locked down after receiving automated threats Monday.

Roosevelt Elementary on the South Hill was locked down after receiving a threatening call, according to school officials. Spokane Public Schools spokesman Kevin Morrison said staff didn’t evacuate the school because the call was similar to false, robotic calls often sent to schools.

Police and school security officers responded to the scene, according to an automated phone message sent to Roosevelt families. The lockdown lasted about 40 minutes.

“The call was similar to others made in the area and nation today and in the past,” the automated message said.

Farmin Stidwell Elementary, near Sandpoint, was evacuated around 12:30 p.m. Police searched the building for about 45 minutes, officials said. Sunset Elementary, in Airway Heights, was evacuated as well.

Threats also led to the evacuation of schools in Colorado, Utah, Delaware, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Wisconsin. Media outlets in the United Kingdom also reported evacuations.

The threats were made against elementary, middle and high schools, with some schools choosing to continue classes and others to put buildings on lockdown rather than evacuate. Some schools resumed classes after sweeps by authorities failed to turn up explosives or other threats.

Some officials described Monday’s threats as automated or robotic and at least two – at Lakewood High School outside Denver and at Ben Franklin Elementary School in Rochester, Minnesota – came in just before noon local time. Also in Minnesota, Forest Lake Elementary in the city of Forest Lake was evacuated after getting a bomb-threat call around 12:15 p.m.

Meanwhile, students at Murray High School outside Salt Lake City were sent home and bomb-sniffing dogs were brought in. No explosives were found.

Two elementary schools were evacuated in Colorado – Liberty Point Elementary School in Pueblo West and Cherokee Trail Elementary in the Denver suburb of Parker. Cherokee Trail is in the same district where two 16-year-old girls are accused of plotting an attack against their high school. No other schools in the district were evacuated, spokeswoman Paula Hans said.

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