Hoax phone call prompts police response to Nichols Middle School
MIDDLEBORO — The Nichols Middle School was the subject of a fake threat that prompted law enforcement to respond to the building, a practice known as “swatting,” on Friday, Feb. 2, said Middleboro Superintendent Carolyn Lyons in an email.
“There was a threat that was called into Middleboro Police targeting the Nichols Middle School around 11:15 a.m. this morning,” the email read. Police and Fire arrived at the school and the school was then placed under a “stay put” notice which instructed students not to travel through the building. The school was then searched, and after the search, the stay put notice was removed and students resumed their day.
According to a Middleboro Police Department report, the false threat consisted of a phone call to the police where a voice falsely said they were “walking towards the school with a gun to shoot people inside.”
The call then reproduced the sound of a gunshot, and the voice on the phone said they “shot someone in the office.” The call ended after the voice on the line said that the purported perpetrator was about to commit suicide. It is unclear at this time how the call or the sounds of the gunshots were produced.
Amanda Klinger, the Director of Operations at the Educator's School Safety Network, said that the number of swatting incidents that target schools across the country has increased by 546% between 2018-19 and 2022-23. Klinger said that the fake threats can vary from being very realistic to sounding obviously fake.
“It’s hard to say what’s normal,” Klinger said. “We’ve heard lots of reports … where there’s the sound of gunfire [and] where they give really realistic descriptions. We’ve heard of ones where the person sounds emotional and sounds distressed. But we also have heard of ones where you can very clearly tell that they’re using software to disguise their voice: there’s more of a flat affect, they mispronounce things [or] they say the shooting is happening in an area or a classroom that doesn’t exist.”
“Schools are in a pretty tough position to have to be able to respond to such a wide array of threats,” Klinger added.
The police report added that after the call, the school was checked for “any possible threats” and that the school was “cleared and normal operations [have] resumed.”
Middleboro Police Chief Joseph Perkins said the incident was the subject of an “active investigation.”
Lyons said that after the search of the building was conducted, students were provided with “counseling support.”
In a statement, the Middleboro School District extended its “deepest gratitude to the Middleboro Police Department and Middleboro Fire Department for their professionalism and commitment to our community's safety.”
“Though today presented a difficult situation, it confirmed that our systems of support and emergency response preparedness [are] effective and organized. We remain confident in the tremendous partnership among the Middleboro Police Department, Middleboro Fire Department, and the Middleboro Public Schools.”