DENVER (KDVR) — Incidents of swatting, where a fake threat is called in, have skyrocketed over the course of the last few years at schools around the country — including here in Colorado.

That’s according to the Educator’s School Safety Network, a nonprofit that helps schools develop safety plans.

Amanda Klinger, with the group, said students are already in a learning mode, and swatting gives them one more skillset to pick up.

False reports to schools on the rise

The fall semester of 2019 was the last time the group took count of false reports to schools around the country. Most are swatting, but some are what they call “good faith” calls. In 2019, pre-pandemic, they tracked 34 false reports.

The group started tracking them again last fall and counted 256 false reports.

“Whoever is doing these types of swatting incidents, they’re leveraging our fear of school-based violence against us,” Klinger said.

It’s for that reason swatting incidents, Klinger said, are unfortunate but a learning opportunity, their impact on educators and school systems notwithstanding.

“It costs money to have a law-enforcement response,” Klinger said. “It costs money and time to have an educational response.”

A survey by the group also collected the impact swatting has on educators.

“There was a period of time where they thought they might die that day,” Klinger said.

Teaching school communities what to do

While swatting plays on their fears, it’s more proactive to teach students, teachers and staff, Klinger said, what to do in these situations.

“We’re moving away from the scenario — the why do I need to have these capabilities — to what are the capabilities that I have?” Klinger said.

Swatting isn’t new, even though it’s happening more often.

The Educator’s School Safety Network is already working with schools, including some here in Colorado, on how to respond to swatting incidents.