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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