Bomb Threat at Howard University Continues Recent Targeting of HBCUs

Howard University in Washington, D.C., reported a bomb threat Monday morning, the latest in a string of threats against historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

The university's department of public safety said on Twitter that the main campus had been threatened and that police were sweeping the area. About an hour later, the university's student association tweeted that the campus has been deemed safe, but officials are continuing to monitor the situation.

This is the school's fourth bomb threat since the beginning of the year, according to The Hilltop, the student newspaper. Nearly 20 HBCUs were targeted with bomb threats on January 31 and February 1, the first day of Black History Month. Howard was targeted on both days and was also part of a wave of threats on January 5.

The FBI identified six "tech-savvy" juveniles from across the country as persons of interest in the threats, according to a February 2 NBC News report. It said the threats appeared to be racially motivated.

On Monday, Howard was put under a shelter-in-place order, meaning classes and other activities were being paused and "free movement of community members around the campus or out into communities" was prohibited, according to a tweet.

Police asked all people walking around the main campus area to report to the nearest building. They were urged to remain in place until authorities issued an all-clear order.

In a statement issued after a bomb threat on January 31, Howard Police Chief Marcus Lyles said none of the threats against the school have proved to be credible so far. He called them "a drain on institutional and municipal resources and an unnecessary mental burden on individuals trying to learn and work on our campus."

Howard, founded in 1867, has the most on-campus African-American Ph.D. recipients of any other university in the country, according to the university's website.

In his January statement, Lyles called Howard an "anchor institution in the nation's capital" and noted that "threats of this kind are more frequent." But the school has a "wealth of resources" that allows it to "act swiftly" when responding to threats, he added.

"Make no mistake; we have remained on alert on campus since the very first threat and have not stopped our work of assessment and scaled surveillance for suspicious activity, in partnership with local and federal law enforcement," Lyles wrote.

Several high schools in the D.C. area reported bomb threats last week, forcing students and faculty to evacuate while the schools were cleared. Two teens were arrested and charged with making terroristic threats in connection with some of the high school bomb threats that week. It is not clear whether these threats are related to the HBCU bomb threats, but the possibility has not been ruled out.

Lyles did not immediately respond to Newsweek's request for comment.

Update 02/14/22, 1:15 p.m. ET: This story was updated to add more information and background.

Howard University, Washington D.C.
Howard University on Monday received its fourth bomb threat since the beginning of the year. Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images