New Hampshire school closes over terror threat. How cautious should we be?

A New Hampshire school district closes Monday over a specific threat of violence as schools around the country weigh the risks of closing over a hoax with those of staying open when a real threat could put student lives in danger.

Another school closed Monday – this one in New Hampshire – as schools across the country continue a high-stakes debate about how to handle electronic threats to student safety without compromising education.

On the one hand, overreacting to a threat gives terrorists an easy victory as they can disrupt American life without firing a shot. On the other hand, schools don’t want to risk playing chicken with kids’ lives.

Officials in Nashua, N.H., chose to err on the side of caution, as the school district’s 17 schools closed Monday, based on an emailed threat. School Superintendent Mark Conrad said a school administrator received a “detailed threat of violence” against students and staff at Nashua High School North and Nashua High School South.

"Because the threat is specific and extends to several schools, we will be cautious and close all of our public schools in Nashua tomorrow," Mr. Conrad said in a statement on the school system website, adding schools should reopen Tuesday.

Conrad emphasized the specificity of the New Hampshire threat one week after the Los Angeles School District closed over 1,000 public schools on Tuesday because of a vague online threat authorities later found to be a hoax. The trouble was, the L.A. school administrators did not know that, and they did not want to take any risks weeks after the Dec. 2 shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., that killed 14.

L.A. officials are not alone in their fear, as school across the nation are debating how to handle threats. Two Washington, D.C., schools closed after a bomb threat officials found to be a hoax Thursday. Schools in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, and Dallas received similar threats Wednesday, but they opted to keep schools open with security on high alert, The Christian Science Monitor reported.

Law enforcement in Houston called in all police officers on overtime to conduct random sweeps of schools on Thursday.

Dallas took a different tack, as local law enforcement made sure to emphasize prudent action.

“We need to make sure that we don’t overreact to fear,” Dallas Police Chief David Brown told Reuters.

Overreacting can give terrorists an easy victory, Tod Burke, a criminal justice professor at Radford University in Virginia, told The Monitor’s Harry Bruinius.

“From a psychological standpoint, that’s exactly what terrorism is: It’s to provoke fear so that your operations stop,” he said.

That is the risk of reacting to terrorist threats. Whether they are based on real threats or hoaxes, school closures bring terrorism threats home – literally.

“Families with kids were faced with a loud wake up call [in Los Angeles], when the concept of terrorism actually affected their daily life,” Carole Lieberman, a Hollywood-based psychiatrist and author of “Coping with Terrorism: Dreams Interrupted” told The Monitor. “No longer was it something they just had to hear about on the news – now they had to scramble to make alternative arrangements for their kids.”

This report contains material from The Associated Press and Reuters.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to New Hampshire school closes over terror threat. How cautious should we be?
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today