Nearly 17,000 students commute to South Suburban College, and on a nice day like Wednesday, the campus would normally be a flurry of activity. But, it was nearly deserted Wednesday. Administrators cancelled classes for Tuesday evening and Wednesday in response to a handwritten note threatening violence, which was found in a men's bathroom.
"We determined that it was the best interest for the safety and staff of the students," said South Suburban College Patrick Rush. "[We[ searched the building again today and plan to open again tomorrow morning."
The college, as well as South Holland police and the FBI, is investigating the threat, and a spokesperson for the school says it could possibly be a copycat of the threats that shut down Saint Xavier University for the past couple of days.
Saint Xavier reopened Wednesday with faculty and staff preparing for graduate classes Wednesday night and undergraduate classes Thursday.
"We needed to respond to what was going o. It was appropriate action, but it's time now to get back to the process of education. That's what this university is all about," said Dale Fast, SXU faculty member.
Area high schools have also been scenes for copycat threats. At Reavis High School in Burbank, police say a teenager wrote a threatening message on a bathroom mirror because he wanted the day off. In Crete Monee, another teenager wrote something threatening for, apparently, the same reason. At Grayslake Middle School Tuesday, students and staff were evacuated because of a threatening message found in a bathroom at that school. Mount Assisi Academy in Lemont canceled classes Wednesday after someone apparently phone-in a bomb threat, according to The Daily Heard. Maria High School also closed its doors Wednesday because of a threat.
South Holland police are also investigating a threat at Seton Academy. Officials at that Catholic school canceled classes for both Wednesday and Thursday. They plan to reopen on Friday.
One expert in juvenile behavior says, in most cases, such incidents stem from people who are immature and use poor judgment.
"They just think it's good fun. And this is a terrible place and reason to do that, and their immaturity fails to recognize the jeopardy in which they may place people," said Dr. Bennett Leventhal of UIC.
Levanthal also says even though a threat is likely a copycat, it is still important to take it seriously and investigate it like the Chicago area schools have done.
He also says schools can take proactive measures, like seeking out people who might be susceptible to such behavior long before the approach of any significant dates on the calendar such as the anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings.