Students, teachers, and faculty in a New York public school district have been terrorized for the second time in one week after somebody threatened to blow up all the buildings unless school officials removed certain books — including those with LGBTQ+ themes — from circulation.
Officials from the Hilton Central School District, north of Rochester, sent the following message to families of students in area schools Friday morning, according to NBC affiliate WHEC:
We have received word that the same threat from Wednesday was resubmitted to local news stations again this morning, from the same IP address as Wednesday’s threat. At this time, Monroe County Sheriffs are determining the credibility of the threat. In an abundance of caution and to allow for planning, all Northwood and Village students will be held on their buses in the building bus loops. Quest will be on a two hour delay. Both Merton Williams and the High School are on lockout. We will be in touch with next steps.
Parents rushed to pick up their children at the schools as school officials scrambled to keep kids safe.
Media organizations in the area received the bomb threat on Friday morning, which led to widespread school disruptions.
Earlier this week, a bomb threat was also distributed through local media, causing schools in the district to be evacuated. Monroe County Sheriff’s Office officials searched Wednesday with dogs but found no bombs.
The threat stated that pipe bombs would be placed in all Hilton schools, the district office, and the superintendent’s residence. The email came from a Russian email address, saying it was a threat to ban a book from Hilton school libraries.
Hilton High School’s library has the book This Book Is Gay, mentioned explicitly in the threat on Wednesday. Besides not being required reading, the superintendent noted that since the district acquired it in 2015, it has only been checked two times and is currently on loan, ABC affiliate WHAM reports.
Threats against the school system came after an Iowa school district removed the same book after the right-wing hate account run by Chaya Raichik, Libs of TikTok, singled out the school district for harassment earlier this week.
A New York State Police spokesperson directed The Advocate to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department for updates because that agency is leading the investigation.
In an update to the community Friday morning, school officials indicated that the school day would proceed after police officials swept all buildings.
“Northwood and Village Elementary students are currently being held safely on buses in the bus loops while the buildings are being swept by K9 Nitrate dogs out of an abundance of caution. We plan to send students back into the building to resume the school day once Monroe County Sheriff's Office clears the buildings. QUEST is on a two-hour delay while the building is being swept. Merton Williams and the High School are in a Hold in Place while the building is being swept,” the message stated.
The message also indicated that parents or guardians wishing to pick up their kids could do so by waiting outside the corresponding school building.
The Advocate contacted the superintendent for Hilton schools, Casey Kosiorek, but has not received a response at publication.
However, Kosiorek did speak with reporters Friday afternoon.
He had a message to LGBTQ+ students in the district.
“I would tell the students of the district that belong to that community that they are welcome here at Central Hilton Central School District as students within our public schools. We love them as we love all of our students. We are absolutely sorry that the debate around a piece of literature is making them feel that they’re not included and welcome. And I know for a fact that our administration, our staff, and our board of education will make sure to the best of our ability to make sure that they feel safe and welcomed,” he said.
Earlier in the day, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office tweeted confirmation of the situation and asked community members to remain patient and calm. The message also said that school had not been canceled.
On Friday afternoon, a spokesperson for the FBI’s Buffalo field office sent The Advocate a statement acknowledging the agency’s involvement in the incidents.
“The FBI is aware of recent bomb threats at throughout the Hilton Central School District. We continue to work in close coordination with our local and federal law enforcement partners to provide assistance. As always, we encourage the public to remain vigilant and to promptly report suspicious activities which could represent a threat to public safety,” the spokesperson wrote.
The spokesperson directed further inquiries to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, which sent The Advocate a statement Friday afternoon.
“Early this morning, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office received information of another threatening email sent to local media claiming explosive devices were placed in Hilton School buildings. Our Hazardous Device Squad and K9 units worked with school staff to safely search buildings for explosive devices. No devices or hazardous materials were found. The email appears to be part of a series of automated overseas emails, similar to swatting calls. We are sharing all information with our local and federal partners and continue to investigate these disturbing emails,” a public information officer with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office said.
Editor’s note: This developing story has been updated to reflect new information from the local sheriff’s department and the FBI.