Multiple Illinois high schools hit by 'swatting' hoax active shooter calls

Whitney Young High School in Chicago, Rockford's East High School, Freeport High School, Dixon High School targeted

ByMark Rivera and ABC 7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Wednesday, April 12, 2023
Multiple Illinois high schools hit by 'swatting' hoax active shooter calls
Multiple schools in Illinois have been targeted by false active shooter threats in what could be a nationwide trend, school officials said.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Multiple police departments responded to high schools in Chicago, Rockford, Dixon and others throughout the state after a series of phone calls claiming there were active shooters or students with guns in the schools.

No active shooters were confirmed in any of these instances. Police believe these calls to be so called "swatting" pranks. But it's traumatizing for students and parents to have a call like that and a tremendous waste of public resources at the least. Police say there's possible jail time for the person or people responsible if caught.

One of the districts with a swatting call - Chicago Public Schools - where Chicago police responded to Whitney Young Magnet High School after what they say was a hoax call about an active shooter inside. The principal issued a statement that said in part, "CPD immediately responded and it was confirmed that the call was made as a prank. We have since been informed that prank calls have affected other schools in other cities around the country today, not just Whitney Young. At no point was there a safety threat to our school, and all of our students and staff are safe."

Parents in Rockford, fearful and frustrated as police worked to clear East High School. Some students reunited with their families outside. Classes were canceled for the day after police gave the all clear.

"Families, students and staff felt a real sense of concern this morning and we are just thrilled that all of our students and staff were safe," said Rockford 205 Superintendent Ehren Jarret. "These are very traumatic events. Thankfully this was not any kind of an actual injury or fatality but we do know students were very impacted by this."

"This is not the only report received within the state today that was a swatting call," Carla Redd, Rockford Police Chief. "We had two other districts in the state of Illinois that were also victims of swatting calls and those calls have been cleared as well and no reported injuries."

Students at Rockford East High School were scheduled to take the SAT exam Wednesday.

"We're working with Rockford Police as they continue to investigate," East High School Principal Jim Parker said in a statement. "We are grateful for the quick response from Rockford Police and the cooperation from our students and staff. Again, this is the best-case scenario of a terrible situation."

Rockford police say they responded quickly to the scene, however no shots were fired and no one was injured. Police are characterizing this as a prank phone call swatting incident, and are promising to find out who made the fake phone call.

There were similar statements from schools in Freeport and Dixon, Illinois after authorities say swatting incidents happened there as well.

Freeport High School issued a statement on their website home page saying, "Unfortunately, FHS was part of a nationwide trend of what we believe to be a prank phone call today. The call indicated that there was a real emergency when in fact there was not. Just to be safe, the police walked the building with multiple squads responding. We are grateful for their quick response. We were also notified by police that other area districts have received the same prank phone call this morning. While we are relieved that there was no real incident, we are not taking this lightly. Thank you!"

Dixon police said their 911 dispatch center received a non-emergency call Wednesday morning just after 8:30 a.m. The unknown male caller had a foreign accent and claimed that a student had been shot at Dixon High School. The call was determined to a be a "Swatting" prank call, police said.

"With any comment(s) or threat, the safety and security of our students and staff is our utmost priority and we take any threats with the utmost seriousness," Dixon police said in a press release. "Due to the call, the Dixon High School administration along with the School Resource Officer conducted a search of the school and located nothing that would indicate a student was shot. The Dixon Police Department along with the Dixon Public Schools Administration have been and will continue to investigate the telephone call that was received this morning."

Illinois State Police issued a statement Wednesday afternoon detailing the extent of the fake threat calls, saying "The Illinois State Police is reporting local law enforcement in 19 counties, totaling 21 calls, received threats directed towards schools today. Responders have not located any actual threats as a result of these calls. The ISP Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center currently has no information concerning credible threats related to school safety. Law enforcement, public safety, and private sector security officials are encouraged to remain vigilant and report all suspicious behavior to local police agencies."