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Downers Grove Police Investigate School Violence Rumors in District 99, Find No Credible Threat

Police and District 99 officials notified parents Tuesday of rumored incident related to the Dec. 21 doomsday theories.

Unfounded rumors of violent acts at Downers Grove's two high schools Friday—the day many doomsday theorists predict will be the end of the world—prompted an investigation earlier this week by police and district officials.

Jill Browning, communications director for Community High School District 99, said a rumor of school violence surfaced Tuesday morning after a student noticed an online comment from another student, who posted about Dec. 21 being the last day in the ancient Mayan calendar and possibly the end of the world.

The student who saw the post perceived it as a threat, and reported it to school officials, Browning said.

District 99 immediately notified police, who interviewed the students involved and concluded there was no cause for alarm or further action, according to Downers Grove Police Sgt. Harry Andler.

"We have thoroughly investigated the incident, and have traced the information back to the source," Andler said. "The comment was taken out of context from a social media site and did not refer to any planned acts of violence, nor did it reference any of the Downers Grove schools."

All District 99 parents were notified of the incident via email Tuesday. In the message, Superintendent Mark McDonald said the situation was likely prompted by lingering uneasiness and fear from the Dec. 14 school shooting in Newtown, CT.

"Before the school shooting in Connecticut last week, the student’s online message may have been viewed as an innocent or rhetorical question," McDonald said. "Given our current climate of heightened attention to security, however, the message was construed differently."

Browning said doomsday rumors are running rampant in several districts.

"A lot of schools are experiencing the same thing right now," Browning said. "We took a proactive stance, letting people know about the investigation and that there is no credible threat to either school."

Another email was sent to parents Thursday morning from principals at North and South high schools.

"As we do every single day of the school year, we’re doing everything we can to make sure that our school is safe," South Principal Steve Bild said in the email. "Together, all of us are responsible for ensuring safety. Again, if you do hear of any threats, report it immediately to me or any staff member at South High."

Although the rumors proved to be untrue, the Downers Grove Police Department is planning to be present in and around both high schools Friday, Andler said.

Anyone with information about school violence or threats against specific schools should contact their school administrators or Downers Grove police, Andler said.

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Kent Frederick December 21, 2012 at 05:11 PM
It's sad that a gunman can cause people to think that any sort of humor about the end of the Mayan calendar is a serious threat. There have been a number of marketing campaigns surrounding the "end of the world" theme, all of which have been light-hearted in nature.
Frank Ocean December 22, 2012 at 01:28 AM
What a waste of resources. Apparently the word "threat" means different things to different people. I can understand a teen not getting the reference, but how could a grown adult employee of the school district not read the comment and see that it was nothing more than a comment about the Mayan BS and there was no "threat" made - implied or otherwise - to anyone? How much police resources were wasted on this because of a lack of common sense by the people responsible for educating our kids? Police resources that could have been better utilized out on the street preventing actual crimes.
J December 22, 2012 at 06:19 AM
Frank, with the heightened security across the nation, I feel as if Community District 99 made the right move. Even if there was no direct threat made, and was later showen to have nothing to worry about, it was better to look into a student made report than to let it go. Somebody felt unsafe, and the district made a good decision to help calm nerves and set aside a comment that could be taken in the wrong way. The DGPD have been in full cooperation with the district all week, and I'm sure not many resources have been wasted. Saying that the administration has a lack of common sense is an insult. They are just trying to make everyone feel safe, and they have.

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