School-Based Bomb Threats at All-Time High Says School Safety Expert

School-Based Bomb Threats at All-Time High Says School Safety Expert
Ashland University Associate Professor of Education Dr. Amy Klinger (left) and Amanda Klinger pose for a photo prior to a presentation in New Mexico at the "Emerging Trends in School Safety" conference.

8/16/16 ASHLAND, Ohio – School-based bomb threats are increasing at an alarming rate according to a well-known national school safety expert who just completed extensive research on bomb threat incidents.

School safety expert Dr. Amy Klinger, who also serves as associate professor of education at Ashland University, says her research over the last 18 months shows a dramatic increase in school-based bomb threat incidents both over the last few years and specifically during the 2015-16 academic year.

“While incidents have been gradually increasing since 2012, in the 2015-2016 school year U.S. schools experienced 1,267 bomb threats, an increase of 158 percent compared to that same time period in 2012-2013, and an increase of 1,461 percent since November 2011,” Klinger said.

The report found that all 50 states and several U.S. territories experienced bomb threats this past school year.

“While this report focuses on schools in the United States, our data indicates that this is an international phenomena as well, with school-related bomb incidents occurring at an increased rate in virtually every continent in more than 22 different countries this school year alone,” Klinger said.

The study also found that in addition to an average of 7.77 bomb threats per day this past school year alone, four explosive devices were found in schools, and one detonation occurred in a school. As a new school year begins, Klinger predicts a continued increase in bomb threats, as “the number of bomb incidents in the month of September increased 307 percent from 2012 to 2014, with an average of 84 bomb threats occurring every October, which means this isn’t just a spring problem -- it’s a year round concern.”

Klinger is the director of programs for the Educator’s School Safety Network, a national non-profit school safety organization based in Ohio. She also serves as associate professor of educational administration at Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio.

“The vast majority of media reports related to school safety this school year have been about bomb threats,” Klinger said. “Our research indicates that bomb threats are currently a daily occurrence in schools.”

Her non-profit, Educator’s School Safety Network (ESSN), believes it is critical to move from mere speculation on this issue to actual facts and data. “We have compiled the most current information on bomb incidents in America’s schools to determine the scope and severity of the bomb incident problem, and it is significant.” she said.

“Based on our analysis of bomb threat data and trends, the sobering reality is that an explosive device will be detonated in an American school, and we must be ready,” Klinger said. “The question that must be considered is not ‘if’ an explosive device will be detonated in a school but rather ‘when.’

“We think it is critical to stop speculating, relying on ‘expert impressions’ or utilizing outdated information and anecdotes. Instead we must objectively and factually determine the nature, scope and severity of the problem,” she said.

Klinger said in addition to the dramatic increase in the sheer number of threats, other unique trends have emerged that indicate a need for concern. “The scope and frequency of the events, the delivery methods of the threats, the perpetrators of these incidents, and the atypical locations of the incidents themselves are all significant warning signs of a larger threat.” she said.

At the same time, she noted, school administrators and law enforcement officials find themselves having to make critical decisions about bomb threat incidents with few established best practices, outdated protocols and a lack of education-based training.

Klinger said more significantly, many school leaders do not understand the potentially catastrophic effects of a bomb incident or do not have the requisite skills to respond appropriately and effectively. “It is critical that educational leaders do not abdicate their decision making authority to law enforcement officials or prematurely dismiss bomb threat incidents as a ‘nuisance’,” she said.

With this in mind, Klinger said her report has two important purposes:

1.  To provide educational and law enforcement communities with the most current data and analysis available on bomb incidents in the United States. While components of the report are longitudinal in nature, the primary thrust of the document is to provide an up-to-date analysis of reported bomb threat incidents in school that occurred in the 2015-2016 academic school year.

2. To provide school and law enforcement responders with an overview and understanding of the critical trends and warning signs that have emerged from the analysis of recent incidents. Because the data collection and analysis is on-going, issues and concerns are still emerging, however there are recommendations and areas of concern that must be immediately addressed.

“It is critical for educators and emergency responders to be equally involved in training, prevention and response as it pertains to violence in schools – particularly in terms of bomb-related incidents,” Klinger said. “Educators must secure a prominent ‘seat at the table’ and be active, equal partners in preventing and responding to bomb threat incidents.”

An executive summary of the report, the report itself and additional information about ESSN and the training services they provide can be accessed at www.eSchoolSafety.org. Contact Dr. Amy Klinger, director of programs, at 419-699-4657, amy@eschoolsafety.org, or Amanda Klinger, director of operations, at 202-570-4655, amanda@eschoolsafety.org for more information or for interviews.

Ashland University, ranked in the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2016, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.                                                                                ###