LAUSD threat live updates: Second-guessing is easy, L.A. police chief says


Key developments

  • All Los Angeles Unified School District campuses are closed after officials at the nation's second-largest school district received a "credible threat" of violence involving backpacks and packages left at campuses. Officials announced that all campuses would be searched.
  • By around 12:30 p.m., a preliminary assessment indicated that the threat -- traced to but not necessarily originating from an IP address in Frankfurt, Germany -- was "a hoax or something designed to disrupt school districts in large cities," said a U.S. Congressman on the House Intelligence Committee.
  • A threat was also made against New York City schools, but the New York Police Department has deemed it not credible.
  • A 17-year-old student was struck and killed by a city service truck as he was crossing a street in Highland Park, headed to classes at Los Angeles International Charter High School. The decision to close the school, which is not part of LAUSD, came late. Students still were on the way in when the crash occurred at about 7:30 a.m.                      

L.A. schools briefing expected at 5:30 p.m.

L.A. school officials had yet to announce Tuesday afternoon whether they would reopen their campuses on Wednesday.

They planned a 5:30 p.m. news briefing at LAUSD headquarters.

Read all our coverage of the L.A. schools shutdown >>

It’s easy to second-guess decision makers when you don’t have to live with the consequences of the decision. These decisions are not something you get to do over again if you turn out to be wrong.
Charlie Beck, Los Angeles police chief

This is finals week, so it felt really unreal. It's the kind of thing that people talk about happening (or in some cases, people even wish would happen), but never actually does, except today it did. It's a strange feeling. This is a terrifying situation. I'm going to study, and wait for the results of my early action college decision to come later today. I'm frustrated that I don't know what finals to study for, the ones that were scheduled for today or tomorrow.
Cameron Chaleff, student, Grover Cleveland High School

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LAPD Chief Charlie Beck: 'These decisions are not something you get to do over again if you turn out to be wrong.'

In a briefing to police commissioners on Tuesday afternoon, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck described emails threatening L.A. schools that he said multiple members of the school board received Monday night.

The threat was very broad, the chief said, but also specific: It named all of the LAUSD schools, implying high schools were the primary target. The attack would happen Tuesday, the email said. It claimed explosives had already been planted and, after they went off, people “with ISIS connections” would use AK-47s and other guns “to cause further loss of life.”

“It was also in very good English – which is not a good sign,” Beck said in an interview after the meeting. “Most of the hoaxes that I see … have syntax errors, a lot of incomplete sentences, non-sequiturs. So that concerned me.”

Beck said the LAPD advised school district officials before they weighed whether schools would stay open, but stressed it was their call to make. He declined to say what he would have done had he been tasked with the same decision.

“It’s easy to second-guess decision-makers when you don’t have to live with the consequences of the decision,” he said. “These decisions are not something you get to do over again if you turn out to be wrong.”

Companies flexible in helping parents out

Pinnacle Designs, a souvenir importer in San Fernando, set up a child-care center in one of the company’s conference rooms to accommodate employees whose children were forced to stay out of school Tuesday following a threat.

The room was stocked with cider, hot cocoa, movies, coloring books and board games brought in by various staff members. Only two children ended up using the service, but the company said it would continue to be flexible and have the center available if LAUSD did not open schools Wednesday.

Jon Phillips, who heads the Los Angeles office of global engineering firm Arup, said calls and emails started filtering in very early from parents who had to make last-minute arrangements. The vast majority of those affected ended up working from home for the rest of the day, he said.

“We’ve always had a pretty flexible workspace, so people know they can take the opportunity to work from home if they need to,” Phillips said.

Cortines learned late of threat

Los Angeles Unified School District Supertintendent Ramon Cortines talks to reporters about the closure of LAUSD campuses.

Los Angeles Unified School District Supertintendent Ramon Cortines talks to reporters about the closure of LAUSD campuses.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

LAUSD Supt. Ramon Cortines, in an email, said he learned of the threat to the district's schools at 5 a.m. Tuesday via a conference call with Chief Deputy Superintendent Michelle King, Board President Steve Zimmer, and Los Angeles School Police Chief Steven Zipperman.

Among the first people handling the situation, starting Monday night, were Zimmer, King and Zipperman.

Cortines was not in the district at the time of the meeting, and he made the decision to close schools between then and 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, when the first notifications went out.

Cortines quick entry into the crisis was evident in his attire at a news conference Tuesday morning. Normally, the superintendent wears a suit and tie like a uniform on work days—dapper, pressed and under control. He appeared at the 7 a.m. news conference wearing blue jeans, an old black pullover sweater and a yellow baseball cap.

We do have an investigation underway, but it's an investigation into a hoax...
William Bratton, New York City police commissioner

School police a resource in search of campuses

Some experts have questioned whether the district can search all of its schools in one day, especially without the assistance of teachers and other staff who can immediately point out which of a thousand boxes, parcels and packages seem to be out of place.

But police detective Rudy Perez was confident that searches could be carried out quickly with the assistance of school police, who are familiar with the layout of classrooms and schools and are likely to quickly spot suspicious packages or objects.

“School police understand the dynamics of a school,” said Perez, who also serves as a department spokesman. “They will know by where something is or what it looks like if it is a pencil box or a food delivery.”

New York threat contained questionable errors, Bratton says

The threat emailed to a New York school official contained errors that made its origins seem unlikely, Commissioner William J. Bratton told reporters Tuesday afternoon.

Allah, for instance, was not spelled with a capital A. He said it did not seem credible that a jihadist had written it.

Bratton, who answered questions about the threat with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, said that, except for targets and numbers, the New York and Los Angeles schools threats were alike.

Bratton also spoke about not running scared.

"The mayor and I talk about being aware but not living in fear," he said.

All after-school programs canceled

Krekorian says LAUSD shutdown 'has cost millions of dollars'

City Councilman Paul Krekorian declined to discuss Tuesday’s closed-door discussion of the school closures, which was held with Mayor Eric Garcetti and Police Chief Charlie Beck. But he said the day’s events will give L.A. officials "a lot to learn from."

"I’m a parent of LAUSD children, and I learned about this through television," said Krekorian, who represents a part of the San Fernando Valley. "So I think it would be better for all of us if we could figure out ways of speeding up the process of sharing information, particularly when there’s an incident of such significance."

Asked about the report from Rep. Adam Schiff that the threat was likely a hoax, Krekorian said, "If it does turn out to be a hoax, it has cost millions of dollars and it’s outrageous. And someone needs to be held accountable and brought to justice for it."

Facilities offer free child-care services

Rep. Brad Sherman gives details of the email

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Los Angeles) doubts the credibility of the emailed threat toward the 900 schools in Los Angeles Unified School District.

Sherman said in an interview the message “lacks the feel of the way the jihadists usually write.” Sherman is a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

He said he had reviewed the email, which spurred the district’s closure Tuesday morning.

Sherman said the roughly 350-word message does not capitalize Allah in one instance, nor does it cite a Koranic verse or mention any incident in Mohammad’s life.

He said the email demonstrated a more in-depth knowledge of assault weapons than of Islam.

“There isn’t a person on the street who couldn’t have written this,” with a basic level of knowledge of Islam, Sherman said. “Everybody in Nebraska could have written this.”

He said the email’s from line uses a pornographic term to reference a male body part.

“Devout Muslims and extremists don’t do that,” he said.

Sherman said the writer referenced Liechtenstein.

Sherman is the former chairman of the House subcommittee on terrorism.

The congressman said the email writer also claimed to be a victim of bullying.

Sherman said elements of the supposed attack outlined in the email lacked credibility, such as the claim that 32 people would be involved or that those people had nerve gas.

Still, he said, “while some of the description of the attack that they are threatening lacks credibility doesn’t mean that it all lacks credibility. I don’t know whether this was sent by a radical Islamic jihadist or somebody who had an anti-Islamic agenda or just a prankster.”

He said the email specifically references Los Angeles, Bakersfield, San Bernardino and San Diego, but made a direct threat toward LAUSD.

“There is some personalization of it that shows that the person does have at least a passing understanding of Southern California,” Sherman said.

While we continue to gather information about the threat made against the Los Angeles and New York School Departments, the preliminary assessment is that it was a hoax or something designed to disrupt school districts in large cities. The investigation is ongoing as to where the threat originated from and who was responsible.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee

I was literally in shock. Ten years working for LAUSD, and I never had such an experience. I am concerned that this is going to be the norm from now on. Reminds me of El Salvador and its civil war.
Claudia Castaneda, teacher, Virgil Middle School

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Want to feed students? Say so with #LAlunch

What happens to all the Los Angeles Unified students who were counting on their school lunches today?

Some people are using the hashtag #LAlunch to try to encourage businesses to fill the void.

The district served more than 300,000 lunches per day in fiscal year 2014-15. More than three-quarters of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

Editorial: Closing schools was the only option

The email could be a hoax. It could be a childish prank to get students out of final exams, or simply a mean-spirited effort to force more than a million people to change their patterns today out of fear.

No matter. Even if there are no explosives-laden backpacks, no mysterious packages and no actual plan to harm children, the online threats that led to the closure Tuesday of every Los Angeles Unified school and preschool demonstrate for Angelenos what it means to be terrorized.

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LAUSD by the numbers

Overall, L.A. Unified enrollment has decreased, but charter schools are growing. The district served over 300,000 lunches per day in fiscal year 2014-15. Approximately 77% of LAUSD students qualify for free- or reduced-price meals.

Enrollment at L.A. Unified (1998-15)

 (Priya Krishnakumar/Los Angeles Times)

(Priya Krishnakumar/Los Angeles Times)

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Parks are staying open late, too

How do I talk about 'terror day' with my first-grader?

It was shortly after 7 Tuesday morning when my husband came into our home office and whispered, “Come here. I need to show you something.”

I followed him into the kitchen, past our kids, ages 7 and 4, who were slowly getting ready for the day. He showed me his phone: The Los Angeles Unified School District had closed all campuses because of an unspecified threat.

What the hell is going on?! That was my first reaction. What are we going to tell our son? That was my second.

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LAUSD students get in free today, museums say

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the newly reopened Petersen Automotive Museum are offering free admission to LAUSD students while school is closed Tuesday.

Students lend a hand to working parents

With one hand, Rafael Velazquez gripped the hand of his 9-year-old daughter and in the other, he held a full box of fruit snacks and chocolate bars.

Together they walked down Evergreen Avenue in Boyle Heights, the girl shouting “Dulce, dulce! Un dólar!” to anyone within earshot.

Velazquez was on his normal sales route in Boyle Heights, but today he had the extra help in Yesenia, who was home from Euclid Elementary after classes were canceled. He has been undergoing dialysis treatment, so he sells the candy as a way to make some money while he’s out of work.

After hearing the news, he decided to not go out and sell and instead keep Yesenia inside with him, worried that whoever made those threats would carry them out. But his daughter convinced him that they weren’t in danger, and that she wanted to spend the day on a walk with her dad.

“So we decided to sell for a little while,” he said in Spanish.

“But only around the house, only the places we know,” she interrupted, in English.

In a way, it was fortunate that this happened on Tuesday, because on Wednesday Velazquez would have left early in the morning for the hospital, and his wife would have to scramble to have someone cover work so she could care for their daughter, Velazquez said.

High school coach finds off-campus field for practice

Harbor City Narbonne, the only high school in the Los Angeles Unified School District still playing in a state football bowl game, had to find an off-campus site to practice Tuesday after the announcement that all district schools were closed, Coach Manuel Douglas said.

Douglas said Gardena Serra Coach Scott Altenberg made his practice field available for Tuesday afternoon, and Douglas said he was grateful.

"We got no cleats, no shoulder pads, no helmets. We'll treat it like a Monday," he said.

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Congressman Brad Sherman: 'The only thing we know is that the email was sent by an evil person.'

"I have reviewed the email that was sent to a Los Angeles school board member," said U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Los Angeles), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "The author claims to be an extremist Muslim who has teamed up with local jihadists.

"We do not know whether these claims are true or a lie. We do not know whether this email is from a devout Muslim who supports jihadists or perhaps a non-Muslim with a different agenda."

Sherman, former chairman of the House subcommittee on terrorism, said the email makes relatively specific and wide-ranging threats to Los Angeles schools.

"We do not know whether some or all of the threats are truthful," Sherman said. “The only thing we know is that the email was sent by an evil person.”

He added: "The text of the email does not demonstrate that the author has studied Islam or has any particular understanding of Islam."

Student killed crossing street after LAUSD school closures



A 17-year-old student was struck and killed by a city service truck this morning while crossing a Highland Park street not far from a charter high school.

The boy was crossing the street at Avenue 60 and Figueroa Street at about 7:30 a.m. when the service truck struck him, according to Officer Jane Kim of the Los Angeles Police Department.

It is unclear whether the boy was a student at the nearby Los Angeles International Charter High School.

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Implied threat included mention of explosive devices, LAPD Chief Beck says

The email was very specific to LA Unified campuses and included all of them, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said.

The implied threat included mention of explosive devices, “assault rifles and machine pistols. These are obviously things we take very seriously,” Beck said.

The original document was routed through Germany, Beck said.

“But the origin has yet to be determined and we believe it to be much closer than Germany.”

Mayor Eric Garcetti: 'Decisions need to be made in a matter of minutes'

At a news conference with officials dealing with the threat against L.A. public schools, Mayor Eric Garcetti said the decision to close the schools was not his to make, but that it was his to support.

"It is very easy for people to jump to conclusions… but decisions need to be made in a matter of minutes," he said. “We will continue to hope that this is nothing and that our children will be back in school tomorrow."

Whether the threat pans out or not, Garcetti said he didn' want this to dissuade people from reporting suspicious activity in the future.

It is very easy in hindsight to criticize a decision based on results that the deciders could have never known. I think it's irresponsible based on facts that have yet to be determined to criticize that decision at this point. All of us make tough choices. All of us have the same goal in mind: We want to keep our kids safe.
Charlie Beck, Los Angeles police chief

Supt. Ramon Cortines: 'We are taking all sorts of precautions'

Students react to school closures

Archdiocese of Los Angeles on school closures

We remain in communication with police investigating the matter and will take any necessary steps to ensure the safety of our students, faculty and staff. Our prayers are with the police and authorities investigating this matter, and the students, teachers and families impacted by the closure.
Archdiocese of Los Angeles

Listen to the LAUSD voicemails

Mother tells children to pray for safety of students

Sarah Nichols of Echo Park walked by the Learning Academy with her four young children shortly after 9 a.m. She was pushing her 1-year-old son in a stroller while her school-age kids — 6- and 7-year-old sons and 5-year-old daughter — ran ahead of her, giggling.

She had just gotten the kids dressed for school when she heard on the news that classes were canceled. Still, the family walked by the school later in the morning — her sons wearing their new backpacks because they were proud of them and didn't want to take them off.

Nichols said she's keeping her kids with her today.

"I would prefer for them to be with me under the circumstances," she said.

She didn't want to explain to the young children what terrorism was, what kind of danger might have awaited. She just told them it "wasn't safe to go to school today."

"I didn't go into detail because I didn't want their little minds to wander," she said.

Still, she said, they asked questions: "Mommy, what's going to happen?"

She told them: "Let's just pray about it. Let's just pray to God that he keeps all the kids safe."

Threat may have alluded to nerve agents, 32 accomplices

In a phone interview with CNN, Rep. Brad Sherman, who represents the San Fernando Valley, talked about the threat against Los Angeles public schools:

The threat contained a “pornographic reference” to a human body part and claimed that there were backpacks with bombs on Los Angeles Unified school campuses, among others, he said. The person claimed to have access to nerve agents and boasted of having 32 accomplices to help in the attack, he said.

The email threat did not indicate that the person has any understanding of Islam, but it was signed with an "Arabic" name, he said.

Public officials urge caution, flexibility

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said the police department is working in collaboration with school police to investigate the threat. The emergency operations center has been activated, he said, and it's been arranged for Metro to provide free bus rides to all Los Angeles Unified school students.

"I understand the concern families must be feeling this morning, but it is critical we remain calm. This decision has been made by the school district in an abundance of caution," Garcetti said in a statement. "We will continue to monitor this situation. Nothing is more important to me than the safety of our families."

Congresswoman Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro) also released a statement encouraging employers to be flexible with working LAUSD parents.

"I know that these school closures are particularly hard on working parents who have to find last-minute child care," Hahn said. "I am encouraging local businesses and employers to be as flexible as possible in light of this situation, and I am grateful for everyone’s appreciation.”

Parents received these voicemails from LAUSD

7:10 a.m.

Buenos dias. Estoy llamando de la escuela [name]. Ahora la escuela va a estar cerrada. Cuando tenemos mas informacion, los vamos a llamar.

8:15 a.m.

The following message from the Los Angeles Unified School District is being sent to parents and guardians. As the result of a threat received, the superintendent has directed all schools to be closed today, Tuesday, December 15, to assure the safety of all students. Further information will be forthcoming via additional Blackboard connect messages. Again, please be advised that all schools will be closed for students today, Tuesday, December 15, 2015. The safety of students is the districts number 1 priority. Thank you for your attention to this communication and your supportive efforts to keep our schools safe and secure.

Sources: Threat came from IP address in Germany

The email threat sent to a Los Angeles Unified school board member that prompted the closure of all LAUSD schools was traced to an IP address in Frankfurt, Germany, according to law enforcement sources.

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New York threat 'so generic, so outlandish'

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the emailed threats to his city were “so generic, so outlandish” that they couldn’t be taken seriously.

The threat was addressed to multiple school systems simultaneously and had wording choice and misspellings that suggested it was a hoax, he said.

“It would be a huge disservice to our nation to close down our school system,” De Blasio said.

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'I was just trying to get to my finals...It's kind of scary'

Venice High School student Lessly Ramirez tells of how she learned that school was closed.

LAUSD robocalls: A lesson in how to confuse and infuriate parents

About two dozen people showed up last month to the Roybal Learning Center, just west of downtown, to talk about what they want in a new L.A. schools chief.

About two dozen people showed up last month to the Roybal Learning Center, just west of downtown, to talk about what they want in a new L.A. schools chief.

(Los Angeles Times)

Last month, editorial writer Kerry Cavanaugh wrote of her frustration with the LAUSD's robocall system.

I am the parent of a Los Angeles Unified School District student, and I get robocalls from the district probably two times a week. These are not calls from my son’s elementary school. These are recorded messages from various district officials, informing me of some meeting or workshop or that parents should fill out some paperwork.

I admit, these calls come so frequently and are so rarely useful that whenever I see the (213) 241 prefix, I let it go to voicemail and only occasionally listen to the message.

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School closure means missing finals

Jose Chavez said he was halfway to Franklin High School in Highland Park around 7:20 a.m. Tuesday when his mother called and told him to come home.

"I thought she was joking at first," said Chavez, who goes to school with his two brothers, Kevin and Joel. "Especially since it's finals."

They said they weren't happy about missing school, especially because the delay will probably mean they will have to continue to study for finals even though they are unsure when they will actually take the tests.

Kevin Chavez said he had received texts from friends saying that Islamic State was planning on attacking schools.

Although the brothers said they didn't take the rumors seriously, they also said they couldn't discount them, based on recent events.

"Who knows how long this will go on," Jose Chavez said. "It's crazy."

Some parents complain about late notice

In comments left on the Los Angeles Times Facebook page, parents have expressed frustration about getting late word late about the closures.

Luckily, I was watching the news and caught it but there has to be a system in place where parents are notified asap in situations like this.
JGarcia Olivares
Totally agree with the shut down. ...just wish that the phone calls came early. Not at 8:21 am.
Rocio Bhna
LAUSD didn't call until 8:30!!! Luckily other mamas texted me or I wouldn't have known We don't watch TV or listen to the news in the morning.
Elaine Mejia Olea

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NYPD: Threat made to NYC schools not credible

We want to hear from LAUSD parents

While a closure of this magnitude is unprecedented, in today's environment, it makes sense to err on the side of safety, even though they almost always are hoaxes. When a closure like this takes place, unfortunately it will embolden others to try it again.
Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino

'No school today'

Zayda Hernandez pulled up to Mayberry Elementary School shortly after 7:30 a.m. Tuesday with her 6-year-old son, Matthew Alvarez, bundled up in the back seat in a coat and SpongeBob SquarePants stocking cap.

Hernandez pulled up to see paper signs with purple writing attached to the closed chain-link fence: "No school today." "Hoy no hay escuela."

She said she had been driving from her home near Chinatown when she heard on a Spanish-language radio station that schools would be closed. But it was so late, and there was a private school she knew of that was open, so she wanted to check just to be sure.

"I pulled up and thought, 'There's no traffic, so maybe it's true.' "

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Students can ride free on Metro

What do parents need to know?

Q: What happens if a child is already at school?

A: Students who already arrived at school will be supervised until parents can pick them up, officials said. Parents picking up their kids must show proper identification.

Q: Is there a number to call for more information?

A: The LAUSD has set up this hotline: (213) 241-2064.

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Amid massive the Los Angeles Unified closure, other school districts are letting parents know they remain open:

"Schools in the Long Beach Unified School District remain open today. Some of you may have heard of school closures in the Los Angeles Unified School District, but schools in the Long Beach Unified School District are not affected by the situation in Los Angeles."
Robocall and email sent to LBUSD parents
As you may have heard, LAUSD is closed today due to a threat. I spoke to Dr. Krumpe, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, this morning. She is working closely with security and CCPD. [Culver City Unified School District] schools are in session today. Each and every day the Lin Howe and CCUSD staff is vigilant regarding student safety and security. Today will be the same.
Dr. Kim Indelicato, Linwood E. Howe Elementary School principal in a message to parents

Notifying parents

Hale Charter Academy Principal Chris Perdigao tells parents that the Woodland Hills campus is closed.

Hale Charter Academy Principal Chris Perdigao tells parents that the Woodland Hills campus is closed.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

The threat is still being analyzed. We have chosen to close our schools today until we can be sure our campuses are safe.
Los Angeles School Police Chief Steve Zipperman