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Bedford schools forced to close Tuesday due to unspecified threat, part of growing trend nationally

The Educator's School Safety Network says minus virtual learning, they've seen threats go up each year since 2013.

CLEVELAND — Bedford City Schools had to close down all buildings Tuesday, including their central offices, because of an unspecified threat.

According to a letter sent to parents that was later obtained by 3News, as well as a copy of a voicemail sent to teachers, an initial threat came in Monday afternoon before a follow-up message was sent during the evening. Administrators then decided to close the schools "at the advice of our Board attorney."

"It is unfortunate that the learning of our students must be disrupted, but law enforcement will need to investigate this new threat," the letter to families read. 

Situations like this have become a growing problem, according to Dr. Amanda Klinger and the Educator's School Safety Network.

"We have seen a significant number, an increase, as we've gone over time," Klinger told WKYC. "We've been tracking threats since 2013, and there has been an increase every single year."

And with these threats come stiff punishments for those caught.

"Inducing panic, specifically, you could be punished by eight years in prison," Gregory Mussman, criminal division chief at the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office, explained. "Two to eight years in prison. It's a felony to the second degree."

That is just one of the charges someone caught making a threat to a school can face, including when (often false) active shooter threats are made while school is in session. This practice is known as "swatting."

"It's not just a threat; it's an attack, it's an incident," Klinger said. "The school has no time to investigate, law enforcement has no time to investigate. They get a 911 call or an emergency call that there's an active shooter and they have no choice but to respond."

Ohio Senate Bill 292, sponsored by state Sen. Andrew O. Brenner (R-Delaware), plans to specifically address swatting threats by making the act itself a third-degree felony. If someone gets hurt during such an incident, it can be bumped up to a first-degree felony. A similar bill already passed the Ohio House.

"As technology evolves, we need to evolve with our laws to account for these incidents," Mussman stated. "We absolutely would support a criminal statute that would address these allegations and these incidents."


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