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Published on May 21, 2024
Broward County Schools Revise Bomb Threat Protocol,  Principals, Law Enforcement to Assess Legitimacy Before EvacuationSource: Google Street View

In a significant shift of protocol, Broward County Public Schools have decided to forgo the automatic evacuation of schools in response to bomb threats made via phone, email, or text. Instead, a more selective approach will be utilized that involves a principal and law enforcement collaboration to determine the threat's legitimacy before initiating an evacuation. This policy change, detailed in a May 10 letter to principals was first reported by NBC Miami.

Superintendent Howard Hepburn explained the decision as a new tactic to deal "with our constant evacuations of buildings during bomb threats," aiming to better ensure student safety. "We want to take a different approach," Hepburn stated, as outlined in the memo acquired by Local 10 News. The district has dealt with over 175 disruptions from bomb threats since late April, contributing to the implementation of this policy.

Yet, this policy has not been met with unanimous support. Lisa Maxwell of the Broward Principals and Assistant Principals Association voiced strong opposition, declaring, "Principals and assistant principals have no training whatsoever in determining what represents or constitutes a credible threat." Maxwell's concerns were echoed in a statement NBC Miami obtained, advocating for the exclusion of principals from the threat assessment process. Maxwell stated that such decisions should be made solely by law enforcement on-site who are familiar with the threat.

Also expressing concern are Broward parents, some of whom insist that the safety of their children shouldn't be gambled with. "All the information that comes in to whatever school is being targeted, it needs to be taken seriously," parent Shanell Kates-Brown told Local 10 News. Parents like Gabrielle Musica feel "they should get them out automatically" for "safety reason." But the district is moving to balance safety with practicality, initiating a "hold" or sweep instead of an automatic evacuation when the threat is deemed not credible, noted Jamie Alberti, the district's chief safety and security officer, in a letter reported by NBC Miami.

Despite resistance, if law enforcement directs an evacuation, the schools will comply, the letter stated. The policy's final shape will deeply impact the students' sense of security and the district's ability to swiftly respond to potential dangers. Officials are maintaining their stance that these new measures are, in fact, in the best interest of the children's safety and the efficiency of school operations.