Second McHenry County student arrested after school threats

Multiple McHenry County school districts have experienced threats or other incidents in the wake of the Michigan shooting that killed four

Marengo Community High School

A 15-year-old Marengo High School student has been charged after police said he made a threat against his school on social media.

The boy, who is not being identified because of his age, was charged with one count of felony disorderly conduct, Marengo police said in a news release Friday morning. Disciplinary action also will be taken by the school.

The Marengo Police Department was alerted to the possible threat Thursday evening, and the department was able to identify the source of the messages, according to the release.

“The Marengo Police Department and Marengo Community High School take any threat like this very seriously,” the department said.

No threat to the public or school is believed to exist at this time, although the police department provided extra patrols and security around the school, police said.

These charges come a couple of days after Woodstock police arrested a student for making a threat involving Woodstock North High School, one of several threats Woodstock police investigated this week.

Woodstock police declined to say whether the student was charged.

In an email sent to families Wednesday, Woodstock School District 200 Superintendent Mike Moan said a student brought a look-alike weapon to Woodstock North, which led to the arrest.

“The student faces the most severe school punishment possible,” Moan said. “In our handbook, bringing a look-alike weapon carries the same consequences as bringing a weapon, consequences which include expulsion from school.”

Expulsions would have to be approved by the school board, District 200 spokesman Kevin Lyons said.

“The student certainly will not return to school until the disciplinary matter is handled,” Lyons said.

Moan said in a video to families posted on the school’s website that school officials work in constant collaboration with the Woodstock Police Department on these kinds of situations. When a threat is brought to their attention, he said, they start to investigate, which means trying to figure out where the threat came from, who shared it and, in some cases, searching homes.

“Once we find a student that created that message, every punishment possible comes into play, including and up to expulsion,” Moan said. “This is an incredibly serious matter. We don’t tolerate it, and we work hard to make sure that we have a safe environment for all our students.”

Woodstock High School also experienced a threat this week, although unlike Woodstock North and Marengo, where both threats were made on social media, this threat was written on a bathroom stall, Principal Art Vallicelli said in an email to families Wednesday.

Woodstock High School did not cancel after-school or evening activities that day, but there was an increased police presence at the school, Vallicelli said.

All students related to the matter have been identified and interviewed, Vallicelli said in an email Thursday.

“Investigations take an enormous amount of time and attention to detail,” he said. “I truly appreciate the patience and understanding that our students and families have shown yesterday and today. While the investigation remains open, we hope to bring a swift resolution to the situation in the very near future.”

Two threats involving Creekside and Northwood middle schools were deemed to be not credible, Woodstock police said in a Facebook post.

Another incident occurred at Alden-Hebron Middle School and High School on Dec. 3. A student allegedly brought an airsoft gun to school, Alden-Hebron School District 19 Superintendent Tiffany Elswick said in an email to parents. It was not fired or used to threaten anyone.

The incident remains under investigation by the district and the Hebron Police Department, Elswick said Friday.

The barrage of threats comes less than two weeks after a student at Oxford High School in Michigan opened fire, killing four students.

An FBI threat assessment report of school shooters identifies copycat behavior as a common trait in school shooters.

“Anecdotal evidence strongly indicates that threats increase in schools nationwide after a shooting has occurred anywhere in the United States,” according to the report. “Students, teachers, school administrators and law enforcement officials should be more vigilant in noting disturbing student behavior in the days and weeks or even several months following a heavily publicized incident elsewhere in the country.”

McHenry County Sheriff’s Deputy Tim Creighton said many of the threats were made on social media, and parents should monitor their children’s time online and talk to them about any threats they might have heard while in or outside of school.

“In the wake of high-profile school shootings, similar incidents and threats can be attributed to ‘copy-cats’ or coincide, with the hyper vigilance of people reporting suspicious behaviors,” Creighton said in a statement.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency said the state has seen an increase in threats to schools after the Oxford shooting and encourages parents and students to use to share information about school safety issues confidentially.

IEMA Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau said she wants students to share information if they feel there is a safety threat at school.

“In this era of social media prevalence, students are our eyes and ears, and they are our greatest tools in this school safety initiative,” she said in a news release.