Coralville school again evacuated after bomb threat amid Twitter barrage over controversial book
This article has been updated with new information from Coralville police.
A Coralville school was evacuated for the second time in two days Friday after receiving a bomb threat.
An email to families of students at Northwest Junior High School and school staff by Iowa City Community School District Superintendent Matt Degner said the school resumed classes after Coralville police conducted a search and determined the building was safe. The police had conducted a similar search after Thursday's bomb threat, finding no explosive device.
Parents were permitted to take their children home if they preferred.
The threats come amid a Twitter barrage directed at the school on a right-wing account called Libs of TikTok, accusing it of having the title "This Book is Gay" that it said promotes “gay sex and encourages the use of sex apps.”
A bomb threat referencing the book forced the evacuation of the entire Hilton Central School District in New York on Thursday amid a similar Twitter stream. And the Sioux City Journal reported Tuesday that a high school there, also targeted by Libs of TikTok, had removed the book from its shelves.
In May, the Ankeny school district's social media accounts, including the superintendent's, were flooded with thousands of negative messages after Libs of TikTok targeted after Ankeny High School's Gender Sexuality Alliance hosted an after-school drag performance that the district called unauthorized.
Coralville Police Chief Shane Kron told the Press-Citizen on Friday that he could not confirm a connection between the Libs of TikTok’s post about Northwest Junior High and the threats because the email containing the threats did not reference it.
“The threat doesn’t even say why they’re getting the threat,” Kron said.
He declined to provide the exact wording of the threat, but said it was the same as the one made to the school Thursday.
“I think it’s consistent with other notes that have been from that group or tied to that group but it’s not an outright signature,” he said.
The contents of the email included a warning that threats would continue to be made to the school. Kron said Coralville police will continue working with the school on the matter.
“We’re convinced it's part of a nationwide effort to disrupt school and cause panic,” he said. “There’s nothing in there that leads me to believe it’s a credible threat.”
Iowa City schools officials did not immediately respond to Press-Citizen inquiries about the threat, or whether the school actually has the book in its library or classrooms.
Kristin Pedersen, the district's director of community relations, said in an email that “Superintendent Degner does not have any availability in his schedule this afternoon.”
What is Libs of TikTok?
Founded by a former Brooklyn, New York, real estate agent the Washington Post identified as Chaya Raichik, Libs of TikTok has 2 million followers on Twitter and is known for its anti-LGBTQ stance. Last September, the Post reported, it was blamed for harassment of children's hospitals the provided gender-affirming care.
Raichik has since become a celebrity on conservative news media.
Both controversial books in schools and transgender rights have recently become hot-button topics in Iowa this year as state lawmakers and Gov. Kim Reynolds push for laws restricting them.
GRAPHIC: @NWJHTrojans offers the pornographic book “This Book is Gay” to students. The book teaches kids about gay sex and encourages the use of sex apps.
These are the books they’re giving your kids to read in school. pic.twitter.com/GcopEwLeav
— Libs of TikTok (@libsoftiktok) March 21, 2023
“This Book is Gay” by Juno Dawson, was among the "10 most challenged books" of 2021, according to the American Library Association.
What did the bomb threat say?
The threats on Thursday and Friday were against both the school and several teachers, according to Kron.
He said he did not believe the threat was related to the so-called “swatting,” or hoax calls, on Tuesday that were made to 30 schools across Iowa, including Iowa City and North Liberty, regarding false reports of active shooters.
He said he did not believe the threat was credible or made by a local person.
The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle contributed to this article.
Paris Barraza covers entertainment, lifestyle and arts at the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Reach her at PBarraza@press-citizen.com or 319-519-9731. Follow her on Twitter @ParisBarraza.
This article originally appeared on Iowa City Press-Citizen: North West Junior High faces second bomb threat amid Twitter barrage