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NY, LA schools receive same email threat; LA cancels classes

NY, LA schools receive same email threat; LA cancels classes

District criticized for massive shutdown

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The nation's two biggest school systems — New York City and Los Angeles — received threats Tuesday of a large-scale jihadi attack with guns and bombs. LA reacted by shutting down the entire district, while New York dismissed the warning as an amateurish hoax and held classes.

It's extremely rare for a major U.S. city to close all its schools because of a threat and it reflected the lingering unease in Southern California following the terrorist attack that killed 14 people at a holiday luncheon two weeks ago in San Bernardino.

In LA, the threat came in the form of an email to a school board member. Authorities in New York reported receiving the same 'generic' email and decided there was no danger to schoolchildren. Mayor Bill de Blasio concluded the threat contained 'nothing credible.'

'It was so outlandish,' he said.

New York Police Commissioner William Bratton agreed.

The shutdown closed more than 900 public schools and 187 charter schools attended by 640,000 students across Los Angeles.

LA officials defended the move, with that city's police chief dismissing the criticism as 'irresponsible.'

'It is very easy in hindsight to criticize a decision based on results the decider could never have known,' Chief Charlie Beck said at a news conference.

Southern California, he added, 'has been through a lot in the recent weeks. Should we risk putting our children through the same?'

Jordan Tama, an assistant professor at American University specializing in U.S. counterterrorism policy, said it's not unreasonable for authorities in different places to make different decisions based on the same information.

'There certainly is no uniform approach,' he said. 'Los Angeles might make their decision based on different factors than New York and that would be the case throughout the country.'

Against the backdrop of the San Bernardino attack, it's 'just human nature' for LA authorities to be more cautious, Tama said.

The threatening 360-word email sent to the New York City school superintendent warned that schools would be attacked with pressure cooker bombs, nerve agents and machine guns. It claimed the writer and '138 comrades' would carry out the attack.

By Christine Armario and Colleen Long

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