WASHINGTON - Letters containing a white powdery substance were delivered to approximately 25 D.C. schools Thursday, prompting worry from parents and administrators and several evacuations of rooms where the letters were found, public safety officials said.
The letters appeared to be a hoax. Initial tests of the substance did not identify any toxic materials, said Pete Piringer, spokesman for D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services. No one has become sick or injured after contact with the letters, said Katherine Schweit, an spokeswoman for the FBI’s Washington field office.
“No students were ever in danger,” Mr. Piringer said.
More tests on the substances found in the letters will be conducted by the FBI, Ms. Schweit said.
Ms. Schweit added there was no indication the suspicious letters were in any way connected to word of Osama bin Laden’s death as the letters were already in the mail at the time of the announcement.
The first reports of the letters surfaced around noon when the fire department responded to M.C. Terrell/McGogney Elementary School in Southeast. By the end of the day, the FBI, the U.S. Postal Service, and the city’s fire and police departments were crisscrossing the city with discoveries of similar letters at schools.
Mayor Vincent C. Gray said during a press conference early Thursday evening he had “no idea” why someone would [JUMP]<t-7>want to target the city’s schools.
”This is a dastardly act. This is the kind of think that alarms people unnecessarily,” Mr. Gray said.
The postmarks on the letters were reportedly from Dallas, but the FBI would not confirm where they were from or what notes inside the letters said.
Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said the FBI and Postal Service were working to identify and intercept any other letters that may be destined for area schools or other targets.
Schools that received letters in Southeast included Ballou High School; Johnson, John Hayden Middle School; Anacostia High School; and King Elementary School.
Northwest schools that received letters included Marie Reed Elementary School, Ross Elementary School, Ellington School of the Arts, Hardy Middle School, Eaton Elementary School, Lafayette Elementary School, Powell Elementary School and School Without Walls High School.
Northeast schools that received letters included Phelps Architecture, Construction, and Engineering High School; Houston Elementary School; Peabody Elementary School; Brookland Education Campus at Bunker Hill; Ron Brown Middle School; Hamilton Center; Burroughs Education Campus; and Spingarn High School.