(WGHP) — Schools across North Carolina were inundated with swatting calls on Thursday, including at least four of them in the Piedmont Triad.

Schools across the state went into lockdown after threats were made against multiple schools. All of these calls turned out to be hoaxes — swatting calls meant to generate a large police response.

Swatting calls have mostly been connected to online gaming communities in the past, but throughout 2022 swatting calls directed at schools have sharply increased. NPR reports that over 200 schools were swatted across 28 states through September and October. They have also been used against political figures, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, who says she was swatted several times in September.

The following schools in North Carolina were targeted:

  • Grimsley High School in Greensboro
  • Williams High School in Burlington
  • Parkland High School in Winston-Salem
  • Wilkes Central High School in Wilkes County
  • West Charlotte High School
  • Mallard Creek High School in Charlotte
  • Olympic High School in Charlotte
  • Northwest School of the Arts in Charlotte
  • Hillside High School in Durham
  • Northside High School in Jacksonville
  • East Bladen High School in Bladen County
  • Washington High School in Beaufort County
  • New Bern High School in Craven County
  • Jack Britt High School in Fayetteville 
  • Roanoke Rapids High School in Halifax County

The hoax calls put schools on lockdown and had extra deputies and officers on campuses throughout the day. On Friday, Wilkes County will have extra security at Wilkes Central High School as a precaution, but other districts plan to operate as usual.

Investigators are working to find out where the calls originated and confirm if they are connected. There are consequences to swatting calls, and people who make them can be charged with making a false report of mass violence on educational property.

Davidson, Randolph, Surry, Stokes and Yadkin Counties did not receive false calls on Thursday but school leaders all confirmed they have discussed the potential for these false threats with principals and staff.

Officials respond

The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office released the following statement:

“These are difficult and different times. Rest assured that we are responding to every call with a sense of urgency to ensure our students are safe. We take every threat seriously and investigate it to determine its credibility – our students and our educators are too valuable to handle it any other way. We are obligated and committed to serving and protecting our community, particularly its most vulnerable resource – our children.”

Sheriff Bobby F. Kimbrough, Jr.

The Charlotte office of the FBI released the following statement:

“FBI Charlotte is aware of numerous threats to area schools and are in touch with the local law enforcement agencies involved. We urge the public to remain vigilant, and report any and all suspicious activity and/or individuals to law enforcement immediately.”

Governor Roy Cooper’s office also responded to the spate of threats, saying:

“Our office is aware of threat calls at several school campuses this morning following similar reports in other states this week. State Public Safety Officials take threats against schools seriously and are working to investigate and keep students and staff across the state safe.”

Prior hoaxes

In September, a dozen schools in Virginia experienced the same spate of calls about mass violence, and Cabarrus County was a victim of half a dozen threats that same week. In early October, Myrtle Beach area schools were the target of similar hoax calls.

Wired reported in October that some of the dozens of swatting calls that plagued schools across the country could be traced to the app TextNow and were likely originating from overseas, but the investigation is ongoing, so it’s hard to say if this recent spate of calls are connected to the calls in other states earlier in the year.