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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.

Joliet police took a proactive approach, assigning extra patrols to monitor the scene around area schools and sending representatives to every school in the city to meet with principals and other administrators, ensure that safety procedures are in place and offer assistance if requested, Cmdr. Rich Demick said.

That's no small task given that Joliet doesn't just encompass Joliet Township High School District 204 and Joliet Grade School District 86, but a large number of school in Plainfield School District 202, Troy School District 30C, Minooka School District 201 and 210, Demick said. There are also a large number of private schools in Joliet, including 45 Catholic facilities.

Most schools have safety precautions in place, and under school code must conduct an annual drill in which teachers practice what to do if someone with a gun does get into the building, Demick said. Police officers are on hand to observe how long it takes teachers to lock their classrooms, usher the students into a corner of the room and empty hallways, he said.

A similar measured approach was taken in Plainfield, . Meanwhile, there was a beefed-up police presence outside Plainfield schools during dismissal 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

A trio of 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.

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.

John Roberts December 20, 2012 at 03:12 PM
Where is the other guy they found in the woods,why is the story changing so much first the guy was let in the doors then he wasnt,,,,No witnesses alive...and to top it all off.....The father of the shooter is Peter Lanza, rumored to be scheduled to testify on the international LIBOR scandal.  Guess who else is rumored to be scheduled to testify on the LIBOR scandal?  Father of the BATMAN theater shooter. Looking more and more like another scandal...not sure about the rumors about the Libor scandal but with our government we have I wouldn't put it passed them...like ole JFK 1 shooter,no 2 oh wait there might of been 3 because of the angles of the bullets....Chaos and confusion causes more chaos and the government assumes full control of its people...not saying they had anything to do with it but it seems a lot of contradictin facts are comming out..

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