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After school threats, the long investigation begins

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Since Friday, more than three dozen schools in Indiana received threats.

On Friday, the threats were delivered in an email.

On Monday, it was a phone call.

Investigators are leaning on technology to find who’s responsible.

Scott Shackelford, a professor of business law and ethics at the Kelley School of Business, told I-Team 8, “It has gotten to the point where we are pretty darn good at tracking these things back. The issue is it still takes a fair amount of resources and expertise that make that happen.”

Just after 10 a.m. Monday, someone called the Alexandria-Monroe Junior-Senior High School with a threat that seemed valid enough to evacuate the school.

The call came to a school landline. Investigators are tracing the call through the school phone records.

Within minutes, first responders from three counties, including state police, converged on the school.

Later, the threat was deemed not credible, but, by then, the panic had taken hold.

Investigators have not named any suspects in the recent threats.

Alexandria is a Madison County city of 5,100 that’s about an 80-minute drive northeast of downtown Indianapolis. The high school has 763 students in Grades 7-12, state education statistics show.

Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings told News 8, “We have to get information and connect that, and that takes a little bit of time. You have to connect that to the individuals that are making the calls and that takes a little bit of time on the investigative side. It can happen, but it is not an immediate response. It takes law enforcement a little while to confirm that and make sure we have the information we need for court.”

Cummings believes the threat made on Monday came from someone within the state.

Cummings told I-Team 8 that the person making these threats could face a felony and time in prison. 

As for the email threats that closed dozens of schools last week, those emails could have come from anywhere on the planet.

Shackelford said, “Depending on the service they are using to send the email and the service the school corporations are using, frankly, it is a lot more straightforward to be able to track back to see where the original sender is located. It is still possible to spoof what is called an IP address. Just like your home address or device that you are sending these things from, those things can still be faked.” 

Threats to schools have been on the rise since the beginning of the school year. A school safety expert told I-Team 8 that the threats are coming in geographical clusters, and none of the threats have been credible. But, that doesn’t mean the emails are completely harmless.

Shackelford said, “But still most compromises happen because somebody clicking on something we shouldn’t, so it is a good reminder when in doubt don’t open a link. It is an all-too-common practice to use that technique as a backdoor. Once you are in, once you get those administrator privileges, you can do all kinds of things potentially. This could be unfortunately a way to cover, given the visibility it has right now, a lot of other challenges that might not manifest for weeks months or years down the road.”

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