LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — An ongoing leadership transition in the Los Angeles Unified school district may have played a key role in the district’s response to a reported terrorist threat that was later determined to be a hoax, according to a report Friday.
The report cited by the Los Angeles Times states that LAUSD officials moved cautiously but quickly in response to the email threat on Dec. 15, 2015, which prompted the unprecedented closure of all of the district’s campuses.
The shutdown affected more than a million people as school buses, district employees, students and parents were rerouted after the threat was reported.
Mayor Eric Garcetti later said the FBI concluded it was not a credible threat, but rather “a hoax or something designed to disrupt school districts in large cities,” according to Rep. Adam Schiff, a ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
The Times reports outside law enforcement agencies deferred to school officials “who lacked any training to evaluate the danger” on the decision to shut down LAUSD campuses after receiving the threat.
Superintendent Ramon Cortines later said he made the unprecedented decision out of an abundance of caution and referenced the Dec. 2 terror shooting in San Bernardino as a factor in his decision.
The closure, which cost the school district $29 million, affected more than 900 campuses, plus about 200 charter schools and dozens of educational centers.
The report also noted Cortines – who was nearing retirement and had already turned over much of the superintendent’s duties to Michelle King, who was later named his successor – wasn’t made aware of the threat until just before 5 a.m., roughly seven hours after it was first received.
“In hindsight, it would have been prudent to brief other key district executive staff and the superintendent of schools in the early stages of the investigation to better allow for administrative and operational considerations,” the report was quoted as saying.
According to The Times, the report is unclear on when King was notified or if officials attempted to contact her.