Bomb Threats Rattle More Historically Black Schools Amid FBI Investigation

Three more historically Black colleges and universities faced bomb threats Friday morning, just two days after the FBI described the ongoing rash of incidents as “violent extremism and hate crimes.”

New Orleans’ Dillard University, North Carolina’s Elizabeth City State University and Virginia’s Norfolk State University ― all HBCUs ― either asked people to shelter in place or asked them to clear the campus Friday amid new bomb threats. As of Friday afternoon, officials had given the all-clear at Norfolk.

Not a week of Black History Month this year has gone by without bomb threats at HBCUs. And earlier this week, the FBI said it had tallied 57 bomb threats at HBCUs and other Black gathering spaces between Jan. 4 and Feb. 16.

“This investigation is of the highest priority for the Bureau and involves 31 FBI field offices that are actively working with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to identify those involved,” the agency said in a statement Wednesday. “The FBI is investigating these cases as racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism and hate crimes.”

Though no explosives related to the threats have been found, the FBI said it recognizes “the fear and disruption this has caused across the country.”

Several of the bomb scares have occurred at HBCUs within the University of North Carolina system, whose president on Friday called the threats a reminder of “the barriers that too many of our students still face on the path to higher education.”

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) also spoke out Friday, saying he’s “extremely disturbed by the continuing bomb threats against HBCUs.”

There are more than 100 accredited HBCUs across the country. Though they enroll students of all races, Black students account for about three quarters of their enrollment.

Earlier this month, media reports circulated that the FBI had identified six “tech savvy” juveniles as persons of interest in HBCU bomb threats. But the agency said this week that it’s still unable to share any details about the investigation.

Several HBCU officials and civil rights groups testified before a congressional committee last week about the ongoing bomb threats, saying the response must go beyond an FBI investigation.

There must be a “commitment to fund research and prevention initiatives to address hate and long-term contributors to extremism,” Southern Poverty Law Center President Margaret Huang said. She described the need for lawmakers to condemn actions against HBCUs, address the growing threat of white supremacy movements and invest in countering the spread of misinformation.

“We cannot allow white supremacy, racism and bigotry to prevent our treasured HBCUs from being safe spaces where students can learn and grow,” Huang said.

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