'Bomb threat' shuts Los Angeles schools

A sign announcing no school is pictured at Aldama Elementary School in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, California Dec 15, 2015.
A sign announcing no school is pictured at Aldama Elementary School in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, California Dec 15, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES • All schools in Los Angeles were abruptly shut down and students sent home yesterday after police received what officials described as a credible bomb threat against the nation's second-largest school system, throwing into disarray the lives of millions of students, parents, teachers and other school staff.

The district ordered its 640,000 students at more than 1,000 schools to stay home, Superintendent Ramon Cortines said in a news conference. Students who were already at school were sent home.

"Earlier this morning, we did receive an electronic threat that mentions the safety of our schools," said Mr Steven Zipperman, chief of the Los Angeles school police department. "We have chosen to close... until we can be absolutely sure that our campuses are safe."

Police were searching all the schools, officers told reporters at a press conference, adding that the institutions would remain closed until the threat was over, reported the BBC.

Mr Cortines declined to specify the nature of the threat, but said district officials were being cautious after terrorists killed 130 people in Paris last month and 14 in San Bernardino, California, less than two weeks ago.

"I think it's important to take this precaution based on what has happened recently and what has happened in the past," he said.

Mr Cortines said the threat involved "backpacks and other packages" and the authorities were exercising "an abundance of caution", reported the BBC. "This is a rare threat," Mr Cortines said. "But I will not take the chance of the life of even one student."

He said he had asked officials to search all the schools within the district, and to "work systematically through the schools".

"I've asked the plant managers to walk (around) the school, and if they see anything that is out of order to call the police. Not to touch anything, but if they see anything out of line, to contact the proper authorities," Mr Cortines said.

School board president Steve Zimmer said the threats were made to several campuses.

"It was not one school, two schools, three schools - it was to many schools, not specifically identified," he said.

Mr Pete Boogaard, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, had no immediate comment on the Los Angeles threat.

BLOOMBERG,NEW YORK TIMES,REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2015, with the headline 'Obama takes tougher tone against ISIS'. Print Edition | Subscribe