A rash of violence rumors spawned a police investigation in St. Charles Unit District 303 Thursday.
Officials found rampant talk of school violence resulted from lingering fear in schools from the recent shooting in Connecticut, but there was not a true threat.
Superintendent Don Schlomann said school officials became aware of rumors at both Thompson Middle School and St. Charles East High School that some form of violence was planned during the school day Friday. The rumors quickly spread by word-of-mouth, Facebook and Twitter. School officials asked police to investigate the claims.
The investigations revealed the rumor specific to Thompson Middle School was started by a student who no longer attends the school. Schlomann said there was a rumor that a recently expelled student was plotting some form of retribution. School officials and police tracked the rumor back to the source and determined it to be unfounded.
A second, separate rumor popped up at St. Charles East High School that involved a "tangled weaving of events," according to an email sent to staff and parents. Schlomann said a combination of fear caused by the shooting in Connecticut combined with hysteria involving end-of-the-world interpretations of the Mayan calendar plus misinformation combined to create more concern than necessary about the rumors.
"It appears people were a little on edge so they created more out of it than it was," Schlomann said.
Schlomann said he's been hearing from school officials in districts across the country that rumors of school violence or end-of-the world doom are prevalent. Students deserve a little leniency because of the confluence of recent events, he said, but all threats must be taken seriously.
"I'm very sympathetic right now because of peoples' nervousness," Schlomann said. "Eventually, all this has to come to an end, and students involved in these rumors will face serious consequences."
The email sent to parents included a reminder that any student involved in disrupting the normal operations of schools with threats of any kind can face both disciplinary action by the school board and criminal charges by local police.
District 303 isn't alone in wading through the hysteria. Palatine High School and Barrington High School both addressed rumors of violence in the past week.