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3 youths charged with recent school threats

From staff reports

Over the past several weeks, schools in Oak Lawn, Palos Hills and surrounding communities have received several threats of violence via text messages and social media.

The Oak Lawn Police Department, with the assistance of the FBI, has identified and charged three minors for making the threats.

One of the students attended Oak Lawn Community High School and the other two were students at Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School. All three have been charged and referred to the juvenile court system. Their names were withheld because they are minors.

All three are also facing disciplinary action from their respective schools.

Three school districts last week said that bomb threats posted to social media disrupted activities and prompted precautions such as soft lockdowns.

Among schools targeted were Richards and Oak Lawn Community High School in Oak Lawn, as well as Stagg High School in Palos Hills.

In a message sent Nov. 9 to families at Oak Lawn Community High School, Principal Jeana Lietz promised swift action against those responsible for the threats, including possible expulsion.

Threats directed to Stagg were received Nov. 5 and Nov. 8, and Stagg Principal Eric Olsen in a message sent Nov. 8 expressed frustration over the threats and how quickly they spread.

“The ease at which one can disrupt a school community with a social media post is a reality we have dealt with as a society for the last several years,” he wrote. “Individuals who repost, screenshot and reshare or add to these types of social media threats contribute to the further spread of fear and anxiety.”

Oak Lawn Police Chief Dan Vittorio in a release said the students said they did not realize the seriousness of their actions, thinking it was only a prank.

Vittorio said police are urging parents to speak with their kids and let them know the consequences of their actions and that pranks like these jeopardize school safety and can cause undue stress for their fellow students, teachers, and the community as a whole.

He said parents should check the phones and social media accounts of their children. If they receive a threat, have them inform a school staff member. They should not forward the threat to their friends.

Vittorio asked parents to do the same and not post any threats they discover on social media sites. This can create a panic, and gives the offenders the attention they are seeking.

Vittorio said the Oak Lawn Police Department will continue to work with the school districts involved and address security matters.

He said that by working together as a community, “I believe we can provide a safe learning environment for our students.”

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