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False reports of violence Monday at area schools, authorities say

Washington-Liberty high school in Arlington was one of several Virginia schools that  reported to be the target Monday of a “swatting” hoax.
Washington-Liberty high school in Arlington was one of several Virginia schools that reported to be the target Monday of a “swatting” hoax. (Arlington County Schools photo)

At least three schools in the Washington area were targets on Monday of the proliferating hoax known as swatting in which a false report is made to authorities of a violent incident in a school building.

Police searched, but no shootings or other violent incidents could be found, authorities said.

Similar hoaxes or false reports reportedly occurred on Monday elsewhere in Virginia. In Culpeper County, for example, the school system said all schools were placed on lockdown after a caller to 911 reported an “active shooter” at one of them.

Such calls have also been reported in recent days across the United States and have prompted a statement from the FBI. The bureau said it took the practice of making false reports “very seriously,” because it placed the innocent at risk and expended law enforcement resources.

In the Washington area, the targets on Monday included schools in Arlington and Loudoun counties.

In Loudoun, both the county sheriff’s office and the Leesburg police department were notified of acts of violence at Loudoun Valley and Loudoun County high schools, the sheriff’s office said in a tweet. Loudoun County High School is in Leesburg.

The sheriff’s office described the notification as a hoax but said that authorities take such reports seriously and are investigating.

In Arlington, police said officers went to Washington-Liberty High School, formerly known as Washington-Lee High School, about 2:20 p.m. in response to a report of a possible act of violence. Officers found no evidence of any shooting or injuries, police said.

Washington-Liberty’s principal, Tony Hall, said in a message to parents that the report of a violent act at the school was made in a 911 call but “was quickly determined to be a false report.” The message said there was an increased police presence, but no threat and “no lockdown at this time.”

The precise purpose and number of Monday’s false reports could not be determined immediately, nor was it clear who was behind them.

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