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District 113A concerned by string of bomb threats

LEMONT – Four potential bomb threats in Lemont-Bromberek Combined School District 113A since last March have the district and local law enforcement trying to determine how to prevent future incidents.

Superintendent Sue Birkenmaier said the district is concerned about the unusual number of occurrences as a threat to student safety and a disruption to their education.

Old Quarry Middle School Principal Bill Caron said he is worried that there are a couple of students responsible for these threats, which the schools need to take seriously each time they happened.

Of the four threats, the district and the Lemont Police Department have discovered the person responsible for one incident at Oakwood School in May. The other three were written on the bathroom wall in Old Quarry.

During the district’s Board of Education meeting on Oct. 2, parent Robyn Horn said she is afraid that with the number of bomb threats, the students will stop taking them seriously.

“I’m concerned with it turning into an epidemic,” she said.

Caron said students are reminded of the behavior guidelines in the student handbook and code of conduct throughout the year.

Lemont Police Commander Greg Smith said Police Chief Kevin Shaughnessy visited each grade in Old Quarry last week to talk about the seriousness of making threats.

“I think that we have been very diligent in explaining the seriousness of this event and the consequences and how the consequences can be severe,” Birkenmaier said.

According to the district’s emergency response guidelines, those consequences may include suspension or expulsion.

Smith said legal consequences could include an appearance in juvenile court if the student has a criminal record. More likely, the offense would result in fines and community service, he said.

The district is also looking into additional security measures, Birkenmaier said.

“As we are emerging from our financial difficulties ... clearly security is an area we are looking at how we can best make our investment,” she said.

Security investments could include improved internal and external communication systems, additional security cameras and key card access systems.

Though a majority of the bomb threats have been written on bathroom walls, Birkenmaier said the district would not put security cameras in the bathrooms.

In accordance with the district’s emergency response guidelines, the building is inspected for writing and vandalism each morning, staff patrol student areas throughout the day and students are required to sign in and out of class when visiting the bathroom during class time.

Birkenmaier said the
district is focusing on security investments it is financially capable of implementing.

“Some of the things that are really good practices could require building redesign,” she said.

One way Lemont police could increase its presence in the school is by receiving a federal grant for a school resource officer.

According to the district, a uniformed drug education officer was present in the building during both the incidents that happened this school year.

Smith said having an officer at the school fulltime might deter some bad behavior. The officer would also have a better understanding of the school and its students, should a similar incident occur.

“It would help build a report, not only with the students, but with the teachers as well,” he said.

In the meantime, Birkenmaier said the district has been talking to students, parents and staff about the seriousness of these threats and how to stop them.

“We need everybody’s help on this,” Birkenmaier said.

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