Hoax Shooting Threats Shut Down New York Schools Days After Nashville Tragedy

“You hope it’s never going to be your school, but no school is safe in America, unfortunately,” one parent told VICE News. 
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Several high schools north of New York City were forced to lock down Thursday after authorities received reports of mass shootings there, terrifying school communities just days after a shooter killed 6 people at a school in Nashville. But after police responded, all of the reports turned out to be hoaxes.

These hoaxes were widespread: Emergency services in Westchester and Putnam counties received calls early Thursday reporting active shooter situations in more than a dozen schools, according to The Journal News in downstate New York. Schools in and around Albany and Rochester also locked down yesterday after hoax shooting threats, Spectrum News and WHAM reported. 


The false reports also occurred in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Utah on Wednesday, and several other states across the country this month, in what appears to be a larger national issue. 

But for some students, parents, and teachers, the trauma still hit home, particularly after Monday’s massacre, where a 28-year-old former student killed three nine-year-olds and three employees at a private Christian school in Nashville using an arsenal of legally-obtained weapons

Jennifer Klein, the mother of a senior at Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua, New York and a candidate for local office, found out the school was locked down Thursday morning from a group chat she’s in with her friends. She began trying to reach her daughter via text and didn’t get a response. 

“I couldn’t reach her for about 10 minutes,” Klein told VICE News Thursday afternoon. “But it was an anxious 10 minutes.” 


Eventually, Klein was able to reach her daughter, who was safe in a guidance counselor’s office. Soon after, she began receiving “more official communication” from the district. 

In a statement to families in the district, Chappaqua Central School District Superintendent Christine Ackerman said police had received an anonymous call reporting a shooting at Horace Greeley High School. 

“After a thorough investigation, it has been determined that there was no shooting at the high school,” Ackerman said. “This phone call was made with the intention to alarm and scare people, causing unnecessary panic and concern. We take these incidents very seriously and our priority is always to ensure the safety and well-being of our students and staff.”

After the call, Klein said, the school attempted to resume classes as normal, but students were shaken up. Klein said her daughter has friends who serve as peer advisers to freshmen at the school, and were locked down with the younger students without any faculty present. 

“[The seniors] were left in charge of children who were scared, and it was basically said that this is not a drill,” Klein said. “I mean, it’s just terrifying.” 

At about 8:30 a.m on the same day, less than 10 minutes away in Pleasantville, New York, Jessica Blankenship was getting ready to take her son to middle school when a message came through the district’s emergency alert system notifying her that there was a lockdown at the high school, which is adjacent to her son’s school, but that “everyone is safe.” 


Pleasantville Union Free School District Superintendent Tina DeSa said in a statement published to the district’s website Thursday that the call was believed to be a “fake 911 call intended to scare people and cause chaos and disruption.” 

“Similar fake calls were made to police regarding school districts throughout Westchester,” DeSa said. “We take these incidents very seriously. As always, our priority is to ensure the safety of our students and staff.”

Blankenship’s son initially wanted to stay at school for the whole day, but texted her around lunchtime asking to come home. “He was like, ‘Hey, a lot of people are crying, a lot of people have left.’ It was kind of like, ‘maybe come pick me up,” she said. 

“There are a lot of kids that are having to meet with counselors all day and they [were] really upset, and they feel this fear really acutely,” Blankenship said. “That’s something that my son has to see his classmates going through. It’s just so unfair for them.”

Another Pleasantville parent who spoke to VICE News on condition of anonymity said she was walking her son to school “when a bunch of police cars ended up flooding the area” driving toward the high school. 

“The police officers didn’t know what to say at first, and then they were like, ‘just stay off this road,’” she said. “And then we spent the next like, 10, 15 minutes just keeping kids from going to school, which was scary for them.”


“When you see that number of police cars flying toward the school building, you assume that something bad might be going on. You kind of have to,” the parent said. “You hope it’s never going to be your school, but no school is safe in America, unfortunately.” 

The New York hoax calls are part of a larger trend that’s been terrifying students, teachers, and parents across the country for months. Since March 21, hoax 911 calls reporting an active shooter situation have been reported at dozens of schools in at least seven states, according to local reports. Delaware State Police also reported on March 2 that “numerous” phone calls were placed regarding supposed active shooter situations at “multiple schools.” 

A survey of local reports between Sept. 13 and Oct. 21 of last year found hoax active shooter situations reported at 182 schools in 28 states, according to NPR. 

New York parents who spoke with VICE News Thursday described the events of the day as “frustrating,” “infuriating,” and “agonizing.” Some parents said they’d been moved to write angry letters to their elected officials. 

Blankenship summed up the parents’ frustration over the hoaxes. 

“It’s bad enough that we live with this persistent threat [of mass shootings] hanging over our heads, and have to think about this shit every time we drop our kids off,” she told VICE News. “But now we’ve got these bad actors who think it’s fun to instill an environment of fear, even without the threat of bodily harm.”

“It’s not as bad, but it’s on the fucking spectrum.” 

If you’re a member of a school community targeted by the hoaxes or other shooting threats and want to talk to a reporter, email

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