WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department of Education warned school districts nationwide to keep an eye out for people spying on their buildings and buses.
According to the Associated Press, the advisory responds to the siege of a school in Beslan, Russia, that killed nearly 340 people in early September. Based on an analysis of that event by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, government officials developed a list of activities that school districts should be on the lookout for to bolster security.
Though not necessarily a cause for concern on their own, a combination of these goings-on could indicate a terror threat:
Interest in obtaining site plans for schools, bus routes and attendance lists.
Prolonged "static surveillance" by panhandlers, shoe shiners, vendors or street sweeps not previously seen in the area.
Observations of security drills.
People staring at or quickly looking away from employees or vehicles as they leave or enter parking areas.
Foot surveillance of campuses involving individuals working together.
Officials recommended measures including installing locks on all doors and windows and ensuring that school bus drivers can be contacted quickly in an emergency. Additional security guidance for school districts is available at www.ed.gov/admins/lead/safety/emergencyplan/index.html.
In early October, the Department of Education awarded a total of $28.6 million in grants to school districts across the country to strengtehn their emergency preparation and response plans.
"These grants will help school districts strengthen their crisis plans and collaborate with other first responders — fire, police, health, mental health and community groups," said Secretary of Education Rod Paige.
In related news, the U.S. military discovered two computer disks containing photographs, layouts and other information regarding certain American schools.
After reviewing the materials, FBI and Homeland Security officials determined that there was no threat involved. The disks were reportedly associated with an Iraqi who was affiliated with civic groups planning for schools in the country. U.S. security officials could not determine that the person had any ties to terrorism.
The American schools were notified so they could take any action they considered necessary. However, authorities said the recovered information is not connected to the safety bulletin issued to schools regarding the Beslan, Russia, tragedy.