Another threat of school violence was identified this week as the Fox Valley continues to deal with a series of such incidents in the region.
This time, it was South Elgin High School which, according to multiple reports, received a threat of gun violence via a phone message early Friday morning. The caller indicated that “they were going to come to school and shoot up the school.”
The school went into lockdown briefly, whereupon two students ran from the building and were eventually apprehended in nearby woods. A third student stated that he had a gun in his backpack, which a search revealed to be untrue.
While it has not been established that the three students were behind the threat, all are being subjected to disciplinary action.
The school re-opened after about an hour, with additional police presence. Police are still investigating the threat.
The South Elgin threat follows a series of threats in the region, beginning with the September 22 threat to Naperville North High School, followed by similar threats to Naperville Central High School, Naperville North again, Burlington Central High School and Hampshire Middle School.
The series of what seem to be “copycat” incidents regarding threats to school safety prompted an unusual joint statement from education and law enforcement authorities on October 20 addressing the issue. Jason Arres, Naperville Interim Chief of Police; Keith Cross, Aurora Chief of Police; Robert Berlin, DuPage County State’s Attorney; James Glasgow, Will County State’s Attorney; Dan Bridges, Superintendent, Naperville School District 203; and Dr. Adrian Talley, Superintendent, Indian Prairie School District 204, issued the following public letter addressing the situation:
To the Aurora and Naperville Communities:
As leaders in the cities of Aurora and Naperville, we take our responsibility for the safety of our communities very seriously. As part of this obligation, we feel the need once again to publicly address the topic of threats against our school communities.
In recent weeks, our community has been the victim of several threats involving our schools in Naperville District 203 and Indian Prairie District 204. This is highly concerning. These threats have caused significant disruptions to our learning environments, diverted substantial resources to investigate, and eroded parents’, students’ and staff members’ confidence in their schools being safe environments.
While we continue to actively investigate these incidents, we are also asking for the community’s help. Parents, please take a moment to discuss the topic of school threats with your child in an age- appropriate way and pledge as a family to both report threats to the proper authorities and refrain from sharing rumored threats and unverified information with others.
Start an Open Dialogue
We acknowledge that not all threats against our schools originate locally, as is the case with the Oct. 15 threat against Naperville North High School, which has been traced to a juvenile in New York. However, some threats do start with our own students. We encourage parents to have open and honest conversations with their children about the seriousness of making threats against an individual or a school community. Children need to understand that there is no such thing as “joking” about bringing a weapon to school, planting a bomb, initiating violence against another, or causing general chaos.
As the agencies responsible for the safety of our schools, Aurora and Naperville Police Departments will thoroughly investigate any threats, the DuPage and Will County State’s Attorneys’ Offices will aggressively pursue legal action against perpetrators, and School Districts 203 and 204 will invoke severe discipline, up to and including expulsion.
Report Threats of Violence
Every member of a school community is responsible for its safety. We encourage everyone to “See Something, Say Something” and ask anyone with information about a threat of violence to bring it to the attention of school administrators and law enforcement.
You may be wondering what constitutes a threat. A threat is any expression of intent to harm another. Threats can be spoken, written, communicated using technology, or expressed in other means, such as gestures or body language. Threats can be made directly to the intended victim, communicated to third parties or expressed in ways ranging from verbal threats on phones, writing on public property, in notes, on social media or over text messaging.
Fact Check Before Sharing Rumors
We understand how unsettling it is to think that the safety of your child or your school community is threatened. However, spreading rumored or unverified information has the potential to cause great confusion and anxiety.
We strongly encourage parents and students alike to refrain from posting or sharing rumors about threats of violence on social media. Instead, fact check before forwarding or responding to rumors on social media. This can be done by calling your school’s office or your local police department’s non- emergency number to ask if they are aware of a rumored threat of violence. We may be limited in what we can say while an investigation is ongoing, but we ask for your trust that our agencies are doing everything in our power to keep our students, staff, and school communities safe.
Especially after the tumultuous few years our students have had navigating remote learning because of a global pandemic, we want nothing more than safe and stable environments for our students to learn and grow in. We are hopeful that by working together, we can reduce the frequency of threats against our schools, calm general anxiety about school safety, and refocus community dialogue on more positive topics, like the growth and education of our students.
Police presence at Hampshire schools is expected to return to normal today.