WASHINGTON - The Education Department has alerted school leaders nationwide
to watch for people spying on their buildings as a possible sign of a higher
The warning is based on an analysis by the FBI and the Homeland Security
Department of the school siege that killed nearly 340 people, many of them
students, in Russia last month.
The review was done to protect schools and not sent "due to any specific
information indicating that there is a terrorist threat to any schools or
universities in the United States," deputy education secretary Eugene Hickok
said in a letter to school leaders.
Federal law enforcement officials have encouraged local police to stay in
contact with school officials and have encouraged reporting of suspicious
activities, the letter says.
In particular, schools have been told to watch for activities that may be
legitimate on their own - but may suggest a heightened terrorist threat if
there are many of them.
Among those activities:
_ Interest in obtaining site plans for schools, bus routes and attendance
_ Prolonged "static surveillance" by people disguised as panhandlers, shoe
shiners, newspaper or flower vendors or street sweepers not previously seen
in the area.
_ Observations of security drills
_ People staring at or quickly looking away from employees or vehicles as
they enter or leave parking areas
_ Foot surveillance of campuses involving individuals working together
The effort is the latest by the Education Department and other federal
agencies to encourage school officials to maintain and practice a plan for
responding to emergencies.
After the terrorist takeover of the Russian school, President Bush asked his
top advisers to review their strategies for dealing with hostage situations,
Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said in a recent interview with The