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Numerous Iowa school districts receive 'swatting calls' Tuesday morning

Law enforcement agencies, schools and state officials banded together to respond to a series of 30 non-credible threat calls made to 25 communities across Iowa.

CLINTON, Iowa — Several Iowa schools had threats called in Tuesday morning, according to statements released by them and the Iowa Department of Public Safety.

Clinton High School posted on Facebook that police were investigating the report after the call was made, however, they found "currently no sign of any shots fired" at the school.

The school said some students sheltered in place while officers searched the building. Classes have been canceled for the rest of the day and students will be released once police officers give the all-clear. 

Clinton Community School District Superintendent, Gary DeLacy, told a News 8 crew on the scene just before 10 a.m. that police were still going through the building, but that they believe it to have been a bogus 911 call. 

"I don't think they (the caller) understand the trauma that is actually happening," DeLacy said. "When you see the faces of some of these parents and kids today, until we've gotten to this point, we didn't know. So you treat it like the real thing... It just triggers human emotion and adrenaline and trauma and it's so unnecessary."

Meanwhile, in Muscatine, police reported that the school had been "swatted," which means that a fake threat was called to the Muscatine Police Department. Police say the call was made outside of Iowa.

A statement made by the school district and distributed by police says the threat "also referenced a staff member's name that does not exist within our high school or district." 

Police responded and swept the building to find no credible threat. Unlike Clinton, Muscatine students will resume class as normal on Tuesday. Students and staff who wish to speak with a counselor are encouraged to do so.

In Bettendorf, Superintendent Dr. Michelle Morse said the district is working closely with police to monitor the situation locally and across the state. 

"As of this email, no schools in our district have received any of the swatting calls being reported in other districts," Morse said in a statement sent to parents and staff. "If a threat were to be called into one of our schools, we would treat it as a real threat and follow emergency response procedures as every threat must be treated as real until law enforcement can conclude otherwise." 

The Iowa Department of Public Safety later released a statement on the incident, revealing that approximately 30 calls were received by law enforcement agencies across the state from the period of 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

According to DPS Commissioner Stephan Bayens, the false reports were a tactic intended to create a large-scale, chaotic law enforcement response.

“The design of it is to create confusion and chaos," he said. "It’s designed to draw a large law enforcement presence to a school even though there is no active threat. And by all accounts and for all intents and purposes, it appears thus far that is what Iowa experienced today."

The calls impacted 25 communities across the state and even more schools:

  • Cedar Rapids    
  • North Liberty
  • Iowa City (multiple schools)
  • Clinton
  • Davenport
  • Muscatine 
  • Cerro Gordo County
  • Story County
  • Lee County (multiple schools)
  • Waterloo
  • Boone
  • Mason City
  • Charles City
  • Clear Lake
  • Creston
  • Des Moines
  • Oskaloosa
  • Marshalltown
  • Monona
  • Nevada
  • North Liberty
  • Ottumwa
  • Decorah 

As the day continued, local law enforcement agencies and communities pooled all their information to DPS's Division of Intelligence, which allowed state officials to help plan out responses in the event of further calls. Bayens said that this proactive information sharing was critically important to the response.

“By reporting these calls to us, we can quickly inform our school and law enforcement partners, which in this case may have impacted the nature of their response and stemmed the flow of more calls to other communities,” Bayens said.

Iowa DPS is now working with the FBI in an investigation into the caller. With currently available information, authorities believe that the calls likely came from a single source.

News 8 will update this news story as more information is made available. Download our app and subscribe to our YouTube channel for updates.

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