At least three schools in Minnesota were on alert Monday after receiving threatening messages – and now officials are looking into whether they are connected to similar threats made across the United States.
Ben Franklin Elementary School in Rochester, Forest Lake Elementary in Forest Lake and Brooklyn Center Secondary School in Brooklyn Center were among the schools to receive threats around noon Monday.
Rochester Public Schools said an automated recording made a bomb threat on the school's main office phone around 11:58 a.m., which prompted the school to evacuate while police investigated. It was later given the all-clear.
At around 12:15 p.m. Monday, an anonymous caller phoned in a threat to Forest Lake Elementary, according to police. The school was searched and deemed safe by about 2 p.m.
The Sun Post reports the Brooklyn Center Secondary School was temporarily evacuated after receiving a threat around 12:30 p.m.
Principal Carly Jarva told the paper similar threats were made across the country.
Those threats – many of them automated calls – were made at elementary, middle and high schools in at least 17 other states, including Wisconsin and Iowa, according to USA Today. Threats were also made across Britain, NBC News says.
Rochester Police Capt. John Sherwin told KTTC he doesn't know if all the calls were identical, but he believes they may be connected.
None of the threats were found to be credible, NBC reports, and law enforcement officials continue to investigate, ABC 6 says.
A swatting hoax?
Ken Trump, a school security expert, told USA Today the string of hoaxes seemed a lot like swatting – a crime that's grown in popularity in recent years where a caller makes a hoax threat or reports a fake emergency to draw a large response from police.
The Associated Press also linked Monday's threats to the latest in school swatting. However, police haven't confirmed them as swatting incidents.
There was a similar string of hoax threats at schools in California and New York last December, NBC News reports. But officials told the publication that the number of schools affected Monday seemed to be unusually high.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety says bomb threats are "one of the most common hazards schools face," and they present an "ongoing challenge for schools."