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Investigation continues into threat at SVHS

Stillman Valley High School was almost back to normal Monday after a threatening message was discovered on the wall in a student restroom Friday morning.

“We had a normal day of school as far as the schedule is concerned,” Superintendent PJ Caposey said Monday afternoon.

An arrest has not yet been made in the case, Ogle County Sheriff Brian VanVickle said Tuesday morning.

“It’s an active investigation,” he said. “I think there will come to a resolution in this case.”

During a press conference late Friday afternoon, VanVickle said that four detectives, patrol deputies, and department administrators had immediately responded to the incident.

They went through the school building looking for “anything that’s out of place and doesn’t look right,” he said. “We had eight deputies inside the school, and the kids were safe.”

He also called for help from the state police, who provided security outside all four buildings in the school district.

Extra counselors were available Monday, Caposey said, to talk to students about their concerns, and sheriff’s deputies remained on duty at the school.

“Overall the day went very well. I think they [the students] were scared and rattled. I think the news of the week scared them,” he said, referring to the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, when a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School killed 14 students and three faculty members.

VanVickle said Friday that they received information about the incident at around 11:30 a.m. after a student reported the threat to high school administrators.

School officials immediately called 911, and Ogle County Sheriff’s Police and the Illinois State Police responded to the scene.

According to a statement released by Caposey on Friday, police and school administrators determined that an immediate lockdown was not necessary and classes and after-school activities proceeded as usual, except for an increased police presence.

“Once that decision was made, police presence was increased at the school, and both the police and district began following emergency protocols,” a statement from Caposey read. “At the request of administration, police partners worked to have a presence at all district buildings despite there being no threat made to those schools. Administration and police agreed that increased monitoring was wise and would provide reassurance to the community.”

Although an emailed statement was sent to the parents of high school students “within minutes” of the threat being discovered, some parents were already showing up at the school to pick up their children.

“By the time the school was able to issue a statement, a photo of the threat went ‘viral’ on social media,” Caposey posted on the district website. “This caused a great deal of alarm and led to a large number of students being removed from school by their parents. Once the situation calmed, administration attempted to speak to every building to discuss concerns and questions of students.”

VanVickle advised parents to rely on school officials to inform them what to do rather than come to the school immediately in such a situation.

“It really causes chaos and interrupts what we have to do,” he said.

The additional vehicles coming onto and leaving school grounds can hamper the investigation, he said.

Caposey said that a positive side of the incident was that it provided a drill for everyone involved.

“In many cases, this was a very ‘real’ drill for SVHS faculty and staff. I’m sorry that our faculty and students had to experience this, but believe it strengthens us against future threats,” he said. 

Anyone with information about the threat is encouraged to call the Lee-Ogle Crime Stoppers anonymous hotline at 888-228-4488.

Amboy Junior High and Sterling High School also received threats last week. 

“On [Feb. 21], it was brought to my attention that a AJHS student allegedly directed a threat against AJHS,” Amboy Superintendent Jeff Thake posted on the district’s Facebook page. “The situation has been addressed, law enforcement was involved, and all administrative procedures consistent with board policy have been followed.” 

On Feb. 22, Sterling school officials and police scrambled to investigate a vague threat on social media directed at “SHS.”

They were concerned enough to beef up security at Sterling High School, to confer with the Statewide Terrorism Intelligence Center, and eventually to issue a news release reporting that there was “no credible threat” to Sterling High or any other local schools.

Earleen Hinton contributed to this story

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