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DECATUR — Schools take threats of violence seriously and investigate them thoroughly — every time — authorities say.

"It has come up occasionally in the last couple of years,” said Maria Robertson, spokeswoman for Decatur School District. “Our students do a really great job notifying an adult or an administrator if they hear something. Most (of the threats) come through social media, and as a district, we have to take them all seriously, but none were credible.

"Our protocols and procedures worked like they're supposed to in managing and investigating them."

While there haven't been any threats in Decatur in recent weeks, an Eisenhower High School student did make a bomb threat in early January, which was found to be false. That student was detained and faced a preliminary charge of felony disorderly conduct. Preliminary charges are subject to review by the Macon County State's Attorney's Office.

State associations representing Illinois police chiefs, sheriffs and state's attorneys issued a news release Wednesday addressing the issue. They say law enforcement takes threats of school violence seriously, no matter the age of the person making them or whether they intended it as a prank.

They warn that threats made personally or through social media or other means will be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Depending on the nature of the threat, charges could be classified as a felony and result in prison time upon conviction under Illinois law.

The statement came less than a month after the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead. Police have said the 19-year-old suspect, Nikolas Cruz, was armed with an AR-15 rifle that he had purchased legally.

A 15-year-old Southern Illinois boy was taken custody on Wednesday and faces felony charges after authorities say he made threats against an elementary school.

Officials say the teen wrote graffiti on J Emmett Hinchcliffe Sr. Elementary School in O'Fallon, including a threatening message and explicit and vulgar drawings. He is charged with making a terrorist threat, attempt of making a terrorist threat, disorderly conduct and criminal defacement of property.

St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly on Wednesday called it "a serious, serious threat." Police said the teen appeared in juvenile court and was sent to juvenile detention center.

School officials say about 170 students were absent Monday, the day the threat was found, and students were still kept home Wednesday. O'Fallon Superintendent Carrie Hruby says the threat "sent fear and panic throughout the community."

In Macon County on Feb. 16, the sheriff's office received a call about a threat to Sangamon Valley High School in Niantic.

Lt. Jamie Belcher said in a statement released at the time that the sheriff's office received the call from someone "regarding a student from the Sangamon Valley Schools that was allegedly planning to bring a gun to school to cause a disturbance."

Two boys, 15 and 17, were taken into custody on preliminary charges of disorderly conduct and making a terroristic threat, the statement said. Authorities did not release the names because the accused are juveniles​.​

The sheriff's office said it was later contacted regarding another student who "made a statement that concerned the school." That case was investigated and the student was released to his parents, the statement said.


Staff Writer

Education and family reporter for the Herald & Review.

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