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DPS evaluating ways to improve communication with parents following unfounded East High School threat

east high swatting 9-19-22
Posted at 5:57 PM, Sep 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-20 20:57:47-04

DENVER — The Federal Bureau of Investigation and local law enforcement officials are working to find the person responsible for a string of false active shooter threats that targeted multiple Colorado schools Monday.

Denver's East High School was evacuated after receiving a threat just before 2 p.m.

Denver police say someone claiming to be a teacher reported that there was an active shooter at the high school, setting off a chain of events police routinely train for.

"There were officers on scene in less than two minutes,” said Denver Police Chief Ron Thomas.

Denver PD quickly determined the threat wasn't real, in large part due to the department's access to Denver Public Schools’ surveillance cameras, which gave officers a live look inside the school. It's one of the many ways DPS leaders say they work with Denver PD to keep students and staff safe.

“We've made significant investments in our security technology across the district to make sure that our systems are integrated,” said Denver Public Schools Department of Safety chief Michael Eaton.

Eaton said technology also allows them to lock down any school from a central location. Officers locked down East High two minutes after the false threat was made Monday.

School ‘swatting’ incidents lead to ‘ton of consequences’ for those phoning in threats, safety expert says

Eaton said overall, he's happy with law enforcement's response, but said communication with parents could have been better.

Many parents went to social media and Denver7 looking for any information about what was happening.

“We know that we didn't do a great job in communicating with parents yesterday through our automated systems, and we need to improve that,” Eaton said Tuesday. “So, we are debriefing that with our communications team and identifying opportunities on how we can improve crisis communications.”

Like with every threat, Eaton said his team will get together with Denver PD and review the response in more detail. In the meantime, he hopes whoever's behind the false threats will be caught.

"This is very traumatic for kids. And when we find you, we're going to make sure that you're prosecuted,” he said.

On Monday, the FBI classified the unfounded threats as "swatting" — the act of calling first responders with a fake emergency to coax them into sending a large police presence to a specific address. Law enforcement experts say these types of incidents can lead to major consequences.