Suburban school district closed due to threat

April 17, 2008 3:09:25 PM PDT
An entire south suburban school district was shut down Wednesday after a threat was discovered in a washroom.Classes were canceled Wednesday in District 149, which includes six schools in the Calumet City area.

Police searched all schools in the district and found nothing. It was likely another copycat threat or hoax, one of several since a threat was found in the bathroom of Saint Xavier College ad closed the college campus for days.

Administrators for the schools acknowledged that they are in a tough position. They do not want to generate more threats every time they close a school, but they also do not want to ignore any real danger. Still, there is growing frustration with each threat.

Parent Lee Mitchell had to see it for himself. Dirksen Middle School, where his daughter was once a student, had been closed along with the five other schools that comprise Dolton District 149 because a death threat was written on the wall of a boy's bathroom.

"This is something that needs to stop; threatening these schools, keeping these kids out of school. Everybody's losing here," Mitchell said.

Police and district officials inspected each of the schools and determined they were safe. However, the threat warned of violence Monday. So after a Tuesday town hall meeting, classes will resume next Wednesday.

"I do believe it's a copycat, but I don't think we can play down seriousness behind the message," said Supt. Traci Brown of Dolton District 149.

That has been the approach of several schools where recent threats were made. Threats that closed down Saint Xavier and South Suburban colleges this week, as well as several high schools in the area.

The Dolton area closings hit close to home for parents and faculty in District 149.

" I drove up to my school yesterday, South Suburban, and saw the same thing, an empty parking lot and cops. Wow. I'm just shocked," said parent Adrianne Brooks.

"Lately, it seems [it's] somebody that just didn't want to take a test or something, but you have to take it seriously," Gary Kulpa, a faculty member, said.

The Cook County sheriff says there are serious repercussions for the culprits of these threats, although offenders may not think the threats cause any major problems.

"People who might sit there and think this is a harmless prank, it is not. We don't treat it that way. So, people will be prosecuted for it," Sheriff Tom Dart said.

Dart also said the sheiff's department is investigating a bomb threat phoned in to Mount Assisi Academy in Lemont, which closed down the school Wednesday. The sheriff said law enforcement officials have some leads on who is responsible, and in addition to facing disciplinary action from the school, they could also face charges.


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