The FBI is expanding its reach to historically black colleges and universities, while the agency’s director announced a minor will be charged with dozens of racial threats made against more than 50 HBCUs across the country earlier this year.
“We have been working with prosecutors to ensure this individual is charged with various other federal crimes,” FBI Director Christopher Wray told the House Committee on Homeland Security on Tuesday, noting that the accused minor is not federally available due to juvenile restrictions is charged.
The youth is believed to be responsible for much of the threats, the agency said in a statement.
Threats against HBCUs peaked in January and February, according to the FBI, when at least 57 colleges received bomb threats via phone calls, email, instant messages and anonymous online postings.
More than a dozen schools were forced to suspend or postpone classes on the first day of Black History Month in February after at least 18 HBCUs received bomb threats.
Senior FBI officials held a conference call for student journalists at HBCUs Monday, explaining how law enforcement agencies across the country have been working to contain the threats and identify the culprits.
The FBI also continues to investigate additional, unrelated threats that appear to have originated abroad, the agency said in a statement.
Following the series of threats, the Biden administration launched an FBI investigation in early February. At the time, the FBI said the threats were being investigated “as racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism and hate crimes.”
In March, the US Department of Education announced that several HBCUs who received bomb threats were eligible for federal grants aimed at improving mental health resources and campus safety.
HBCUs are eligible to apply for funding under the Project School Emergency Response to Violence (Project SERV) program, which the Department of Education says provides grants ranging from $50,000 to $150,000 per school.
“The recent bomb threats that HBCUs have faced have shaken students and fractured their sense of security and belonging that is vital to their academic success and well-being,” Education Minister Miguel Cardona said in a March statement.
In August, the Southern University Law Center in Louisiana announced they were the first HBCU to receive a Project SERV grant. A spokesman for the university told CNN that the grant was $133,200 and would be used to complete a series of questionnaires to assess the mental health impact of the bomb threat.
The FBI is also stepping up its efforts to recruit diverse candidates, as the agency’s first-ever chief diversity officer visited 10 historically black colleges in recent weeks.
“We know that different communities often don’t think of the FBI as a place to work,” Scott McMillion, the FBI’s chief diversity officer, said in a statement provided to CNN.
He said the FBI makes an effort to “highlight and provide information about career opportunities with the FBI in the hope that students will consider us a preferred employer.”
“We’re trying to intentionally bring people from different backgrounds into the bureau,” he said. “These students will bring new ideas, innovation, creativity and passion that will help us to be a better organization now and in the future.”
The agency last year unveiled the newly created position of Chief Diversity Officer to address its decades-old diversity problem.
McMillion embarked on a tour of several HBCUs this fall including Virginia State University, Norfolk State University, Johnson C. Smith University, Albany State University, Alabama State University, Talladega College, Miles College, Morgan State University, Howard University and Jackson State University.