Baltimore school officials announced yesterday that they will begin tracing anonymous calls through a telephone service, Call Trace, in an effort to stem a rush of bomb threats that they believe are linked to the war in the Middle East.
In the four school days since war broke out last Wednesday, there have been eight anonymous threats leading to evacuations at seven schools and the temporary closing of one school -- City College, said schools spokesman Douglas J. Neilson. All the calls were unfounded.
On Monday, school authorities made the unusual decision to close City College for the day after a man arrested outside Mondawmin Mall for carrying a handgun claimed that he had stacked sticks of dynamite under bleachers there.
A search by police officers revealed no explosives, but signs of recent tampering with fences around that area persuaded officials to close the school shortly after 8 a.m.
City College also postponed two days of forums on the Mideast situation that were scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.
The City College incident led to a swirl of rumors, including one that a bomb blast had blown out the windows there, Mr. Neilson said.
dTC Partly in response, Superintendent Richard C. Hunter and Deputy Superintendent J. Edward Andrews Jr. met with most of the system's 177 principals yesterday afternoon to set the record straight and discuss procedures for reporting bomb threats, including use of Call Trace.
Unlike school districts in Frederick and Carroll counties, however, Baltimore does not plan to cancel field trips to Washington for fear of terrorist attacks. Yesterday, Anne Arundel County also canceled all field trips to Washington.