School districts across Montana, including Three Forks, Townsend, and Whitehall, received an emailed bomb threat last week.
According to Three Forks Superintendent Rhonda Uthlaut, several district staff and board members received the email on the evening of January 16, and they believe at least 75 districts in Montana were affected.
Whitehall Superintendent Hannah Nieskens said administrators received a non-specific threat mass email from an individual representing a terrorist organization in Yemen, adding the U.S. Attorney’s Office, FBI, and Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office were all taking action to conduct a forensic investigation to trace the email.
“The email recipients all appear to have been sent to lists of school administrators and school board trustees, which are readily available on the Montana Office of Public Instruction Website,” Nieskens said.
Broadwater County Sheriff Nick Rauser said he called the FBI, and the email was determined to be a hoax. Rauser reported he and a deputy cleared all three schools in Townsend and found nothing.
“Unfortunately, these events and threats are becoming very common. The safety of the children and staff are a priority,” Rauser said.
After local districts deemed the email a “non-credible” threat, they continued with regular school schedules on January 17.
“We recognize that violent threats of this nature can cause serious anxiety and concern for our students and families. Although this is not considered a credible threat, please be reassured that there will be an increased law enforcement presence in place that guides our response in the event of any further threat,” Uthlaut said.
According to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, they coordinated with schools to sweep the facilities. They did not locate any suspicious devices and will continue to work with the Montana Department of Justice and the FBI regarding these incidents.