Richland Co. Schools respond to school violence threats

A local school district responds to how it's handled recent threats made against its students. Four times someone has left written threats of school violence in Olney, Illinois. Three of those threats specifically target Richland County High School.

Posted: Oct. 27, 2017 5:26 PM
Updated: Oct. 27, 2017 5:41 PM

OLNEY, Ill. (WTHI) - A local school district responds to how it's handled recent threats made against its students. Four times someone has left written threats of school violence in Olney, Illinois. Three of those threats specifically target Richland County High School.

Right now, the city is trying hard to get things back to normal.

"This all began Monday morning, when we identified a threat that was written in a bathroom stall," said Chris Simpson, who is Richland County Schools' Assistant Superintendent. Simpson told News 10 two 14 year old male students have been arrested for making the first threat. They now face felony charges.

Three additional threats have been made, each targeting Richland County schools. Simpson says this has gone over poorly with students.

"This has disrupted their experience," Simpson explained. "It's given their school a bad name. It's given teen agers, adolescents a bad name, which couldn't be further from the truth."

While students are angry, the threats have left some parents on edge.

I spoke by phone with one mother who chose not to be identified, and she confirmed that she kept her daughter home from school today for her personal safety. The woman refused an on-camera interview with us, citing fears of repercussions against her and her daughter. From whom and what kind of repercussions, she could not tell us.

That's why we approached the administration to see what they're doing to calm these fears. Are students safe? Simpson believes so.

First, local police have increased their presence in all Richland County schools, including Catholic schools in town. Teachers and staff are also on high alert, putting to good use repeated training sessions for these very situations.

"You have to take the threats seriously, but it's difficult to verify how credible those threats might be," Simpson said. "We believe through this whole process that our students have been safe and that we have taken the steps to ensure that safety."

The Richland County Sheriff's Office notified us of a fifth threat of school violence towards local schools. But this one came from someone who lives in a western state, but formerly of Richland County. The threat came in the form of a message from "Snapchat." The "snap" was sent to a significant number of students at the high school.

The snap included the use of what appeared to be a firearm. Police learned it was an airsoft gun. A juvenile who made the original post has been arrested in his or her current state and will face a felony charge.

The sheriff's office also wanted to address the rumor of a "hit list." Police were clear that there's no credible evidence such a list exists. They've spoken to several juveniles who have sent messages telling others that they're name is on the "list."

The Richland County Sheriff's Office asks "all parents to speak to their children and explain the seriousness of making these threats and life changing consequences that will occur."

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