Historically black Spelman College issues shelter in place order, closes campus after bomb threat
Spelman College shut down campus and issued students a shelter-in-place alert Tuesday, after officials at the historically black university received yet another bomb threat – the third such threat this year, and the second in a week.
In a text alert sent to students Tuesday morning, officials at the Atlanta university revealed the school’s Department of Public Safety had received the threat, with no information about a location or time of detonation.
‘Spelman alert: Bomb threat reported. Classes suspended and campus closed. Return to residence halls and shelter in place. More information soon, ‘the message sent to faculty and staff just before 11 am read.
Historically black Spelman College shut down campus and issued students a shelter-in-place alert Tuesday, after officials at the university received yet another bomb threat – the third such threat this year, and the second in a week
In a text alert sent to students Tuesday morning, officials at the Atlanta university revealed the school’s Department of Public Safety had received the threat, with no information about a location or time of detonation
According to officials, the school received the threat roughly an hour earlier, at 9:53 am, spurring police to perform a sweep of the campus, located near downtown Atlanta, while students take shelter in their respective dorms.
Police are currently searching the area to discern whether or not the threat is legitimate, a spokesperson for the school said Tuesday, with no device being found thus far.
Nonetheless, the campus has been closed and classes suspended while officials and the Atlanta Police Department investigate the threat, until officials give the go-ahead that the area is safe.
The threat is the third of its kind Spellman has seen this year, and comes just a week after the most recent one. In that case, Atlanta police worked with Spelman Public Safety to conduct a sweep of campus buildings and found no explosives.
Fourteen historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) were threatened on February 1 – the first day of Black History Month – including Howard, the University of DC, Kentucky State, and Edward Waters University
The same proved true for a similar threat received by the university earlier this year, on January 5.
The threats serve as the latest in a series of similar transgressions toward historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), with about two dozen such institutions reporting bomb threats – all bogus – since the start of the year.
The influx of threats has since spurred a federal investigation, with the FBI now investigating the ‘violent extremism and hate crimes’ being exhibited to HBCUs.
‘These threats are despicable,’ Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell said of the sudden barrage of bomb threats. ‘They are designed to make us feel fearful and vulnerable.’
The FBI called the bomb threats ‘racially and ethnically motivated’ and said it had more than 20 field offices working together to investigate. In addition, the FBI is investigating six ‘tech savvy’ juveniles believed to be behind the bogus threats
More than a dozen HBCUs – including Howard University, Kentucky State University, Morgan State, and Spelman – received threats last Tuesday, at the start of Black History Month.
The threats spurred Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens to arrange for additional police patrols around multiple black-owned schools in the city including Spelman, as well as the nearby Clark Atlanta University and both Morehouse College and the Morehouse School of Medicine.
Meanwhile, the FBI is investigating threats against at least 17 historically black colleges and universities across the country, with officials saying they are now looking into six ‘tech savvy’ juveniles, whose identities were not released, who are believed to have made the racially motivated threats.
‘These threats are being investigated as racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism and hate crimes,’ the federal agency wrote in a press release on Wednesday.
‘This investigation is of the highest priority for the Bureau and involves more than 20 FBI field offices across the country.’
Although ‘no explosive devices were been found at any of the locations’, the FBI said it was ‘committed to thoroughly and aggressively investigating these threats.’
The investigators add that they suspect a manufactured, fake phone number was used to make the threats.
No charges have been pressed yet as a result of the FBI’s probe.
Spelman officials are asking students not to contact Public Safety unless they have specific details about the threat.
‘We appreciate the active involvement of our local and federal officials,’ Spelman president Campbell said in a statement Tuesday, after the latest bomb threat.
The 14 HBCUs that received bomb threats on the first day of Black History Month
- Howard University – DC
- University of the District of Columbia, – DC
- Morgan State University – Baltimore
- Coppin State University – Baltimore
- Fort Valley State University in Fort Valley – Georgia
- Kentucky State University
- Xavier University of Louisiana
- Edward Waters University – Florida
- Alcorn State University – Mississippi
- Mississippi Valley State University
- Rust College – Mississippi
- Spelman College – Georgia
- Jackson State University – Mississippi
- Tougaloo College – Mississippi
Source: NBC News
‘We continue to count on them to work with us to add additional protective resources and to step up their investigations into these threats.’
‘The students, faculty and staff of Spelman deserve the ability to conduct the college’s mission with calm, confidence, and security.’
Hate crimes have largely increased on college campuses during the last decade, according to the FBI, with more than 40 percent of hate crimes on college campuses being racially motivated, according to federal education data.
Raymond C. Pierce, president and CEO of the Atlanta-based Southern Education Foundation and former dean of North Carolina Central University’s law school, an HBCU, says the threats are traumatizing for many African-Americans – serving as an ugly reminder of other, past instances of racial discrimination.
Howard University in Washington, DC, which also received three threats, closed Friday, declaring it a mental health day ‘in recognition of the additional challenges that have been heaped upon our shoulders.’
Pierce, a former US Department of Education civil rights office administrator, said some whites resent the existence of HBCUs, which, in most cases, were founded at a time when colleges would turn away Black students. He recalled seeing threatening emails and letters when he was at North Carolina Central.
‘Attacks upon HBCUs – which are the pillars and incubators of Black intellectualism, leadership, and culture,’ Pierce says, ‘are deeply racist and must be quickly and vigorously investigated.’
Spelman freshman Lindsey Fiesta was in her dorm on campus when she received the alert for last week’s threat on February 1. Upon receiving the notice, she recalled to the the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, she fearfully rushed to a friend’s room to not be alone.
Speaking to the outlet Friday, she aired her concerns that the string of threats may deter some students from applying to HBCUs.
‘HBCUs are a symbol of Black people being educated and breaking stereotypes,’ the psychology major from Boynton Beach, Florida, said.
She added: ‘A lot of people want to tear that down, and that really scares me.’