Worry and Fear Grips Schools and Parents in Wake of Newtown Shooting and Local Threats

Random and disturbing threats in the Chicago area followed the Newtown school killings, underscoring vulnerabilities and prompting discussions of gun control and guns for teachers.

The first day of school after the Sandy Hook school massacre brought a wave of fear, worry and outright threats to Chicago-area communities as educators and police sought to reassure people that efforts to protect their children would be redoubled.

Parents and educators everywhere were talking about school security even as incidents locally in the last three days underscored potential vulnerability. Here's a glimpse of what's taken place in the past few days.

In Plainfield, . Meanwhile, there has been a beefed-up police presence at District 202 schools in the days following the Sandy Hook shooting.

Parents in the nearby Valley View School District balked at what some saw as an overzealous response to the tragedy after the district enacted strict policies regarding visitors, barring parents from school parties, and began random "magnetic wand" searches" at the two high schools and five middle schools. Parental outcry prompted the district to revise its new policies and soften its stance on visitors.

In Downers Grove, parents discovered that schoolhouse doors were unlocked and flooded the district with calls. The school district decided to lock the doors this week and install temporary buzzers. Administrators will consider installing an advanced system. A buzzer and badge system is already in place at Glen Ellyn schools.

In Oak Lawn, police reviewed security procedures at public schools and parochial schools, and school officials were looking at the entry and exit doors to see what more could be done to prevent an intruder from entering the buildings.

In Clarendon Hills, rumors of a "kill list" brought to school by a middle school student prompted an investigation.

Elmhurst saw an increased police presence at schools, with . At York High School, entry and exit will be restricted to two doorways. And any student who opens a door for anyone will face disciplinary action, administrators told Patch.

A high school student in Elmhurst, however, told the school board that the security measures wouldn't prevent anything. School security isn't the issue said senior Anna Hovorka.

"Security isn't the matter at hand," she said. "The shooter had a mental illness. I think the School District needs to consider the fact that there are many students in our School District who have mental illnesses who are not seen or considered. The matter at hand is that that is who is a danger if anything were to happen."

Arrests and Threats

Threats in the south suburbs underscored the raw nerves felt by many parents, with a police manhunt, a threat to shoot school children and another threat to kill school administrators.

In Oswego, tensions have been high due to the possible threat of violence that was announced last Thursday in a school district-wide release. School administration has since said they and law enforcement found the rumors involving one high school and several junior highs to not be credible, although many parents via social media and comments have expressed concern of their children going to school on Dec. 21, the winter solstice. 

Fears heightened Tuesday afternoon in the Tinley Park area as . Schools in Tinley Park and Oak Forest went on lockdown during the search, and schools in nearby Frankfort and Mokena went on soft lockdown, keeping the children inside during recess. Police officers were at the schools when classes ended for the day.

An arrest warrant was issued Tuesday for a former Lincoln-Way High School teacher accused of telephoning his former bosses in New Lenox earlier this month and threatening to kill them. Ryan Gardner, 40, checked himself into a mental health ward at a Chicago hospital, however, he could have checked himself out at any time. He faces felony charges.

The arrest warrant was forwarded to the police department at University of Illinois Hospital, said Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow. When he is released from care, he will be taken to jail. Glasgow said the mass murder in Newtown, CT, made this case more urgent for him.

"In light of what happened in Connecticut, we have to be at a heightened level," he said.

Meanwhile, in Palos Hills, a man arrested on DUI charges early Monday morning . Police went to 31-year-old Michael Lynch's Palos Hills home and confiscated his firearms and ammunition.

The governor said the Illinois State Board of Education, the Illinois State Police, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, and other state agencies will review school safety programs throughout the state.

More Guns or Gun Control?

Talked of increased security at schools also includes suggestions to arm teachers and others who work in the hallways. Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, said schools should hire armed security guards and give teachers guns and weapons training.

"Somebody has to be there that can stop (an attacker) at that moment," Pearson said.

However, several lawmakers have changed their positions on gun control measures. And others, including the mayor of Chicago, say now is a crucial moment for our nation to enact a ban on automatic weapons.

The president said Wednesday he will deliver to Congress an expansive set of gun control laws to consider in January.

Mayhem December 20, 2012 at 02:39 PM
This is exactly why educators need access to weapons. This is why Plainfield should go ahead with the plan to install safes in the schools to keep weapons in. Believe me, there will be less lives lost if educators and School Resource officers could respond "correctly" to a shooter in the building. Yes, I said respond "correctly". That means my child being saved, and the bad guy being mowed down...so sorry bad guy, but you are the one that wont be going home. I sincerely hope that Plainfield will use common sense this time, not buckle under the pressure of these ridiculous Plainfield Soccer moms, and stick to thier guns! Protect the children. Thats whats important!
Old Lee December 20, 2012 at 04:36 PM
I agree, the SRO's should have access to all their weapons including rifles. The officers are trained and the weapons will be safely secured. This should have never been up for public debate.
Zaney December 20, 2012 at 04:54 PM
No brainer.....get those safes in the schools.
Olddeegee December 20, 2012 at 05:10 PM
I love how the "right" wants to take away teachers pensions and salaries and then give them guns. They're not known for thinking things through.
Gabrielle Smith December 20, 2012 at 07:06 PM
Put a police officer in every school--someone whose job it is to protect people and use a gun if necessary. I do not want my children's teachers having guns--they are not trained professionals and accidents can happen. Also, if I were a gunman, the first place I would go was to the office--guns in safes will do no good when the office personnel are all dead. Before the Plainfield school district was forced to make millions of dollars in cuts, there was a cop at every school. And my kids in the elementary school loved Officer Brooks who was assigned to River View school. Now I believe several schools share one police officer.
Mayhem December 21, 2012 at 05:18 AM
Well there should have been no public debate about it. You protect your kids and loved ones by whatevrer force needed. I for one would love to see teachers with'protecion.
Mayhem December 21, 2012 at 09:15 AM
It would not be hard to get a certain amout of teachers certified in handgun use.  Gun Control, as some call it is not the issue as many have said. Tell me, how many thugs got their hands on guns up   in Cook County where "Gun Control" was so strict? No matter how tough the laws are, people will always find ways to get their hands on them illegally.  Wake up people, having a way to protect yourself in a bad situation is a far better option than having to "talk" your way of  Out of a bad situation. Talking to a criminal and begging him not to hurt you doesnt work. Pumping him with a round of hot lead speaks volumns! Sure, we all have opinions, but when opinions override common sense, then there is a problem.


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