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After school shooting hoax, Spokane Public Schools says it'll work to improve training, public communication

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Rebecca White, SPR News
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Spokane's Lewis and Clark High School (FILE PHOTO)

Spokane’s public-school system said it’s launching new policies to implement lessons learned from a recent “swatting” hoax at Lewis and Clark High School.

Last month Lewis and Clark, as well as several schools across Montana, were targeted by a school shooting hoax, or “Swatted”. “Swatting” is when a person calls 9-1-1 to report a fake emergency in hopes of producing a large, armed police response.

Initial speculation on social media, and confusion among students at Lewis and Clark High School, led Spokane Public Schools to change the way it handles some aspects of its emergency management. SPS Superintendent Adam Swinyard said the district’s goal now is to share as much accurate information as quickly as possible.

“It really takes a collective effort of responsible adults in our community to get out accurate information, to help us coordinate to the greatest extent possible, and to be responsible to not sensationalize what's occurring,” he said. “The more we sensationalize, the more we incentivize these types of hoaxes to occur.”

Swinyard said December’s hoax occurred during lunch, meaning many students weren’t in their classrooms. Most tried to follow instructions they had received during previous drills. But Swinyard said the district is providing students with more training to make sure they know what to do during a fake or actual emergency, regardless of where they are on campus.

He said another challenge that occurred during the emergency, school staff were trapped inside and weren’t able to meet up with students at the emergency outdoor gathering point, has also been resolved. School staff from the central office will now meet up with students who are outside of the school building during an emergency.

In a statement Tuesday afternoon, the Spokane Police Department said it was also working on its response.

“The response by SPD and multiple law enforcement agencies was consistent with on-going training for active threat incidents. The coordinated effort, tactics utilized, and cooperation with staff and students led to a successful outcome. Subsequent incident debriefs with Spokane Public Schools have allowed SPD to further assess where our response protocols can be optimized.”

The agency said it was working with other law enforcement agencies in its investigation into who made the fake 911 call, which is ongoing.

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.