“The bomb threats against HBCUs, particularly concentrated in Black History Month, constitute a uniquely traumatic event, given the history of bombings as a tactic to intimidate and provoke fear in Black Americans during the long struggle for civil rights,” said Dietra Trent, the new executive director of the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
While thankfully, all of these threats so far have been hoaxes, they still take a serious toll on HBCU campuses. Officials at HBCUs must remain vigilant to ensure the safety of their campus communities. The generation of fear among students, faculty, and staff is real. And the disruptions and costs these threats incur to the normal operation of the campus community cannot be overstated.
Many weeks ago, the Federal Bureau of Investigation stated that a group of six juveniles may be responsible for the threats. Officials testifying before Congress said that a single juvenile may be responsible. Yet, no arrests have been made. It seems remarkable that a group of kids or just one kid has so far been able to mask their criminal behavior to the extent that they have been able to elude local and federal law enforcement.
Now, the Biden administration has announced that HBCUs that have received threats are eligible for grants of between $50,000 and $150,000 to help them deal with these bomb scares. The grants can be used to improve security or increase mental health resources. The grants are part of Project SERV, which supports schools “that have experienced a violent or traumatic incident.”
Undoubtedly in the toxic political environment that exists today, there will now be allegations that supporters of HBCUs are calling in the threats in order to increase the flow of federal funds to HBCUs through these new grants.
In addition to the grants, the federal government has offered training to campus police at several HBCUs on how to react to bomb threats.