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Lehighton hit by ‘swatting’ hoax School district was one of many throughout the region

Lehighton Area High School was among the many schools around the country Wednesday to fall victim to a “swatting” hoax.

Swatting is a false call about an emergency or hostage situation designed to bring out law enforcement and emergency responders.

According to Lehighton Borough Police, the department received a phone call around 8:15 a.m. from a man with a thick foreign accent stating there was a shooting at the high school.

“The male stated there were five victims in a bathroom,” Lehighton Detective Matthew Arner said.

Lehighton Area School District Superintendent Dr. Christina Fish sent a message to parents letting them know the high school was immediately put in a working lockdown.

“The Lehighton Borough and school police conducted a search and nothing was found,” Fish said. “The high school was then released from the lockdown. All students and staff are safe and secure.”

According to Arner, indicators showed the call was being made through a voice over internet protocol. When asked to provide additional information on the shooting, the man ended the call. The voice was determined to be the same throughout the state.

“Further investigation revealed the same alleged male contacted other districts in the eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey area to report the same emergency,” Arner said.

Lehighton Borough police Chief Joe Sparich said that as of noon Wednesday, the actual number of incidents were unknown.

“As the day goes on, we’re learning of more and more incidents, and we’ll continue to work with state and federal authorities in an attempt to investigate the source and continue the investigation,” Sparich said.

Arner referenced Monday’s shooting at a private Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee.

A former student shot through the doors of a Christian elementary school Monday and killed three children and three adults after elaborately planning the massacre by drawing out a detailed map and conducting surveillance of the building, police said.

The massacre at The Covenant School in Nashville was the latest in a series of mass shootings in a country that has grown increasingly unnerved by bloodshed in schools.

The victims included three 9-year-old children, the school’s top administrator, a substitute teacher and a custodian.

“Whenever there’s an incident like that, it does bring about these type of calls, so we take every call like this very seriously,” Arner said.

Borough police are working with state and federal authorities regarding the incident.

Fish said the “swatting” incident, or active shooter hoaxes, are occurring more frequently in the wake of the recent school shooting in Nashville.

“We take every report very seriously and will respond accordingly,” she said.

In her message to parents, Fish urged parents and community members to take some time to talk to family and friends and report any concerns or potential issues.

“It is times like these,” she said, “where we are strongest when we pull together as a community.”

Arner said borough police will continue to be vigilant in and around Lehighton’s schools.

“We will work closely,” he said, “with our local, state and federal partners to identify and hold accountable the people responsible for these hoax calls for the fear and alarm caused by their heartless actions.”

No other schools in Carbon were affected, but David McAndrew, Panther Valley superintendent, was quick to send a memo to staff about the situation. He directed staff to continue to review emergency protocols.

Other regional school districts where similar hoaxes played out Wednesday include Catasauqua, William Allen, Emmaus and Phillipsburg, New Jersey.

Troop M in Bethlehem said it would continue to have police presence at the schools through the rest of the year.

Terry Ahner and Kelly Socha contributed to this report.

Lehighton High School was one of several in the region Wednesday to receive a false call about a shooting at the school. TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS