Note how scares are built. The following phrase is included in the middle of the text, as innocuously as possible:
Among the few pieces of evidence suggesting a school attack are a June 2002 threat by an al-Qaeda spokesman saying the terrorist network has "the right to kill 4 million Americans, including 1 million children."
The statement is not attributed to any specific person, date, place or source. It constitues plain disinformation.
By Greg Toppo, USA TODAY
18 August 2003
More than 50% of school police officers say that they don’t have specific, formal guidelines to follow when the Homeland Security Advisory System increases the alert level, for example, from yellow to orange. About four in 10 officers say school safety funding, which would help them prepare for terrorist attacks, actually is decreasing.
The findings are part of an annual survey by the National Association of School Resource Officers, which represents more than 10,000 school police officers.
"Cities and towns across the country all move to a new level of preparedness, and we have schools that are larger than some of our cities," says association president Curt Lavarello. "Yet they can’t adequately prepare that community."
Among schools that have plans, a heightened alert often prompts them to tighten access to campus, monitor parking lots, cut back on field trips, sports travel and after-school activities. Many also restrict locations where employees can open mail and instruct staff to be on alert for suspicious people.
"The main thing that they do is increase adult supervision and tighten access to the school building and grounds," says Ken Trump, an Ohio safety consultant who prepared the report.
Among 706 officers who responded to a survey question about terror alerts, 51% say there are no formal guidelines in their school when a change occurs in the color-coded system; 35% say their school has guidelines. About 14% say they don’t know.
The U.S. Department of Education will review the findings, a spokesman said Monday, adding that nearly $885 million in federal money is being invested in school safety. "Our schools are more prepared than ever in the event of an emergency," spokesman Dan Langan said. Schools "should be ” and are ? involved in emergency planning with their state and local emergency planning agencies."
But Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and Education Secretary Rod Paige have said there’s no evidence terrorists plan to target schools. Among the few pieces of evidence suggesting a school attack are a June 2002 threat by an al-Qaeda spokesman saying the terrorist network has "the right to kill 4 million Americans, including 1 million children."
In the 2003 officers’ survey, 90% say schools are soft targets for terrorism; last year, 95% said their schools were "very vulnerable."
On preparedness in general, only one in four believe that schools in their district are adequately prepared to respond to a terrorist attack; 56% say the crisis plans for their school are inadequate.
The officers also fear that a new federal requirement allowing students to transfer out of "persistently dangerous" schools will encourage administrators to underreport crime. The survey found that 61% of officers believe administrators whose schools were faced with the label would underreport crime to police; 87% say school crime already is underreported.
Among other findings:
The written survey was conducted from June 29 to July 4 at the association’s annual conference. Of 1,100 surveys distributed, 728 were completed.