Local authorities say threats to schools will be taken seriously
The announcement comes after a string of such incidents this week.
Glenwood High School was placed in soft lockdown on Wednesday after officials learned of an electronic threat via a social media app.
The following message from Superintendent Douglas Wood has been sent to parents:
This morning, the Ball-Chatham School District ordered a phased lockdown on GHS due to a threat message posted on the Yik Yak app. School administrators, security and safety personnel, as well as local law enforcement officials are conducting a search of the facility. Searches of this type are generally probative in nature and threats to the safety of students or staff are minimal.
A minor male was taken into police custody. The green light was given around noon.
Another student in the Riverton district faces charges for threatening this school.
Three other incidents this week involved threats against Washington Middle School, Sacred Heart Griffin and Springfield High Schools.
Sangamon County State Attorney Dan Wright said some might view the threats as simply pranks.
“We certainly don’t view them that way and they violate the criminal laws of the state of Illinois and will be treated as such,” he said. “You might think that because you are under 18, nothing will happen to you if you threaten a school. I want to be absolutely clear. This is not 100% the case.”
Wright said felony charges are possible, including a Class X felony, if a threat is prosecuted under terrorism law. Convictions could result in prison terms and fines.
The police were accompanied by heads of schools in the region during a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.
Authorities said schools across the country were seeing an upsurge in threats following a fatal shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan.
The threats were made primarily through social media apps, including Yik Yak, which were popular with young people. Although it advertises itself as a local bulletin board, comments are anonymous. It has been criticized as a platform for bullying.
“We’ve all seen what’s going on in our country … really since Columbine. As role models, we need to be involved in the lives of our children,” Springfield Police Chief Kenny Winslow said. “We need to know what they’re doing on social media, who they’re hanging out with, and teach them how to make smart decisions.”
“People think they’re anonymous. They think they can get away with it. You can’t.”
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency and local emergency officials statewide are reminding students, parents, and members of the Safe2Help Illinois community of a free 24-hour information-sharing platform. 24 and 7 days a week. A free app, SMS / phone or website (Safe2HelpIL.com) can be accessed to share school safety issues in a confidential environment. According to state officials, information obtained by Safe2Help Illinois will be kept confidential to ensure student privacy and protect the integrity of the program. The aim is to encourage students to “seek help before they do harm”.
Whether or not a school district is enrolled in the program, Safe2Help staff will review all information received and forward it to the appropriate local contact, whether or not they choose to formally participate in the program.
Threatening can also be a sign of a student experiencing mental stress. Officials were keen to remind students and others of available mental health services. The two local hospitals in Springfield provide these services.
A national suicide prevention hotline is also available for those who need it.
The latest incidents come as Springfield Public Schools discuss ways to improve safety after a student died when he was stabbed at Lanphier High School last month.