Several North Dakota schools targeted by false shooting threats

Fargo, Grand Forks, Bismarck and Jamestown schools all received threats Thursday morning.

A Fargo police vehicle marked SRO 1 is parked outside a brick school building while snow falls.
A police vehicle is parked outside of Fargo North High School on Thursday, March 2, 2023, after authorities received calls that made false threats of shootings at schools across North Dakota, including North High and Ben Franklin Middle School.
Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum

FARGO — At least six school districts across North Dakota received calls threatening shootings Thursday, March 2, that police quickly determined to be hoax "swatting" calls.

Law enforcement received phone calls reporting shooters at two schools in Fargo on Thursday morning, which officers found to be fake, according to Fargo police spokeswoman Katie Ettish.

The two phone calls indicated there were active shooters at Ben Franklin Middle School and North High School, said Fargo Public Schools spokeswoman AnnMarie Campbell.

At the request of Fargo police, all schools in the district went into lockdown, she said. The lockdown was cleared about 15 minutes later, after police and school resource officers determined there was no active threat.

"While there is no threat to our schools, Fargo Police Department is providing additional presence near schools today," North High School Principal Travis Christensen said in an email to parents.


Grand Forks schools were locked down for about 15 minutes while police investigated a similar threat, according to an email sent to parents. A lockdown at Red River High School "was over before it began," said Lt. Dwight Love of the Grand Forks Police Department.

Grand Forks police received a phone call about a potential threat outside the school at about 10 a.m., according to an email from Principal Kris Arason.

The school went into lockdown immediately, and officers went to the scene. After investigating the building's exterior, police determined the building was safe, and the lockdown was lifted at about 10:15 a.m.

Love said it was "pretty apparent right away that it was a false alarm."

"We believe this to be another case of swatting, or a fake phone call to emergency responders regarding a fake incident," Arason's email said.

Similar threats have been reported at several Minnesota schools in the past few days, and the hoax calls have "been impacting school districts around the nation this school year," he said.

Fargo Public Schools also attributed Thursday's threats to swatting.

"A full investigation will be completed to see if it can be determined who called in these hoaxes," Campbell said.


Fargo police said they believe the calls came from outside the region.

At about 9:45 a.m. Thursday in Bismarck, emergency dispatchers received a call from someone claiming to be an active shooter, and gunfire could be heard in the background, according to Bismarck police.

Officers searched Bismarck High School and found that no shooting was occurring.

"During the search, numerous calls came into dispatch regarding hearing gunshots in the school, and that there was an active shooter," Bismarck police said in a statement.

At about 10 a.m., Bismarck Public Schools sent an email to parents about threats at Bismarck High School. At 10:30 a.m., Bismarck police posted on their Facebook page that there was no active shooter threat, and that students and staff were safe.

Students at Bismarck High School were kept in a secure location until 12:30 p.m. while police did a thorough check of the building, Bismarck Public Schools said on Facebook. The school closed for the remainder of the day, and counseling services will be available to students and staff, the district said.

Police received a call of a threat at 10:07 a.m. Thursday at Jamestown High School. "The caller reported that he was the shooter," the Jamestown Police Department said in a statement.

A school resource officer determined there was no threat to the school, Jamestown police said, and a shelter-in-place order at the school was lifted within 10 minutes.


Police in Minot and Mandan posted notices to Facebook that they received phone calls threatening schools in their respective cities, which were also determined to be false.

Thursday's calls follow threats at schools across Minnesota earlier in the week. On Monday and Tuesday, schools in Albert Lea, Alexandria, Austin, Bemidji, Brainerd, Duluth, Ely and Eveleth were targeted by similar threats that appeared to be made in alphabetical order.

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