BHAS wants to use recent lockdown as a learning experience—as experts warn hoax threats may become part of the new normal

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – Benton Harbor Area Schools look forward, after being targeted—along with other schools statewide—by someone claiming there was an active shooter inside the building, which turned out to be a hoax.

“That was the thing that was going through my mind, that hopefully it wasn’t real,” BHAS Superintendent Dr. Kelvin Butts told me in his office a day after the incident.

According to the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department, law enforcement officers were informed of a potential threat at Benton Harbor High School around 9:41 Tuesday morning, and the building was immediately put on lockdown.

While the building was on lockdown for around ninety minutes—officers were made aware shortly after their arrival that the threat was a hoax call made to several schools all over the state.

Former student Tanisha Joseph is disappointed by the threats made at her alma mater: “It’s sad that we have to come to school and worry that someone’s going to bring a gun to school, because somebody is having problems with somebody else,” she said. “It’s sad that we can’t live our life how we can or be happy.”

While relieved it was a hoax—the situation left its mark.

“From a parent’s perspective, this is one of the worst scenarios you can imagine, just seeing armed personnel coming into your child’s school,” said BHAS Director of Communication Paul Korson.

Both Korson and Dr. Butts worry these types of threats—also known as SWATTING—will become the new normal.

It’s something school security expert Kenneth S. Trump—President of National School Safety and Security Services—believes schools need to prepare for.

“We’ve seen schools hit with SWATTING threats for years now,” said Trump. “In the last six months—schools have been pounded especially hard across the nation.”

Dr. Butts will use the lockdown as a way to learn what the district needs to prepare for in case a real threat presents itself in the future.

“We are being proactive in our response and looking at our protocols and ensuring that our students are safe at all times,” he said.

Trump argues schools should have a threat assessment done before any incidents occur, for the best possible results.

“The first time that you talk about assessing a school threat is not when you’re standing in the parking lot when it unfolds,” said Trump.

Tanisha Joseph worries there’s no easy solution: “There isn’t really much to say about what can be done because there’s so much going on.”

Law enforcement officials remind that making these threats comes with hefty punishments.

Attorney General Dana Nessel cautioned that making such a threat to a school can be punishable with $50 thousand fine and up to five years in jail.

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