Police continue to search for clues to who wrote threat on bathroom stall
Police are expected to return to the Illinois Valley Central High School campus today as an investigation into who wrote a threatening message on the wall of a boy’s bathroom stall continues.
"You don’t take anything like this lightly, and we didn’t," said Chillicothe Police Chief Steve Mauer on Monday about his presence and that of another city police officer at the school.
Mauer declined to reveal specifics of the threat, which was discovered about 8:30 p.m. Thursday, because of the investigation being conducted by his department and the school.
No arrests had been made at the conclusion of Monday’s classes, which went on as normal.
The threat, written in the "form of graffiti," was directed at a specific student, said IVC Principal Kenton Bergman, dispelling rumors that the threat was schoolwide.
The message was likely penned earlier in the day Thursday because access to the area of the school where the bathroom is located is barred after 3 p.m. each day, he said.
"Though the severity of this situation is somewhat in question, we are taking the situation seriously and responding in an appropriate manner," Bergman said. "The safety of the students and staff is our priority."
Bergman said a "significant" amount of evidence has been turned over to police, who will maintain a presence on school grounds as they gather information.
The high school, which serves about 675 students, has video surveillance cameras posted in common areas of the school but not the bathrooms.
Staff learned of the threat Friday morning in a "vague" e-mail, Bergman said. The school opted not to alert students or their parents because the investigation was just beginning.
"We were in a situation of balancing what information do we really have (and) second, where was the information going to go," Bergman said of his reasoning on Friday. "We were not comfortable releasing anything specific."
Not until Sunday evening did news of the threat peak and cause a "wildfire reaction," said the principal, who was ultimately contacted at home regarding the matter.
Parents and students were alerted of the threat Sunday night via e-mail. In it, the school detailed steps it was taking to ensure the safety of its students.
"There is always a fine line trying to balance giving out information that may alleviate fears and, at the same time, maintaining the privacy rights of our students as well as the investigation," wrote Bergman in the e-mail.
A letter similar to the e-mail was sent home Monday with the students.
Updates on the investigation will be provided to staff, students and parents when available, Bergman said in the letter.
Leslie Fark can be reached at (309) 686-3188 or firstname.lastname@example.org.