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Hoax threats called into schools around Montana

The Montana Division of Criminal Investigation is investigating a string of hoax threats called in to schools around the state Friday morning.

Calls reporting an active shooter situation were made to dispatchers in Billings, Colstrip, Forsyth, Manhattan, Miles City and Red Lodge as well as Cascade, Madison and Gallatin counties. The Montana Department of Justice reports no evidence of active shooters and no actual threats were found.

State Division of Criminal Investigation Administrator Bryan Lockerby called these threats “an orchestrated hoax threat called swatting."

The FBI regional office in Salt Lake City released a statement that officials are aware of the threats and are providing support to local law enforcement.
The FBI encourages the public to remain vigilant and report any suspicious behavior to law enforcement.

Similar hoax calls have been reported recently in other states including South Dakota and Oklahoma.

The calls came after several seemingly unrelated threats to high schools in Billings. In a letter to district families and staff, Billings Public Schools Superintendent Greg Upham said the district would be increasing police presence at its high school and middle schools throughout the day.

"Many of you and your students, along with our school community, are rightfully experiencing concern and trepidation regarding the situations and threats our school district has experienced, especially over the course of the last week and half," he wrote.

Regarding questions about metal detectors in schools, Upham said after a conversation with the school safety firm that helped the district craft its current safety plan," it was reaffirmed that metal detectors are not an effective deterrent to school shootings.

"Rather, the best course of action is creating and sustaining a culture of trusting relationships between adults and students that cultivates the sharing of any safety concerns."

YPR's Nadya Faulx contributed reporting.

Kay Erickson has been working in broadcasting in Billings for more than 20 years. She spent well over a decade as news assignment editor at KTVQ-TV before joining the staff at YPR. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University, with a degree in broadcast journalism. Shortly after graduation she worked in Great Falls where she was one of the first female sports anchor and reporter in Montana.