Parents of students plan a show of “solidarity” outside Whitney Young Magnet High School Wednesday after another threat was found carved into a bathroom stall at the school.
The threat was reported to administrators about 9:15 a.m. Tuesday by three students who discovered the message in a girl’s bathroom, according to school Principal Joyce Kenner.
The Near West Side school was already on high alert, with 10 additional Chicago police officers roaming the halls for extra security after a similar threat was found Friday. The original threat etched into a bathroom stall had the message, “You will all pay 12/5.”
The new message was similar, said Kenner.
The school will be on a “soft lockdown” Wednesday, according to an email sent to parents by Kenner Tuesday evening. Once a student enters the building in the morning, they won’t be allowed to leave until the end of the school day. Students will also face suspension “if caught opening a door for anyone (this includes brother, sister, mother, father, etc.),” Kenner wrote.
The principal said in an interview that she wasn’t surprised that another threat was found and has suspicions that the second threat was made as a joke.
“We don’t know if its a copycat situation or somebody just lashing out … some students may take this opportunity and find it to be funny,” said Kenner.
“This is not funny. People’s lives are at risks,” she said.
In the letter to parents, Kenner said that many other students “are having severe anxiety over these issues that we have had to confront over the past two days,” with some leaving school out of fear for their safety. Many students said they aren’t planning to go to school Wednesday.
A mother of a sophomore at Whitney Young, who asked that her name not be used, said her daughter and several of her friends left school early Tuesday after the new threat was announced over a loudspeaker by Kenner.
The mother and other students said the metal detectors did not appear to be working and only random students were chosen to be wanded and searched more closely.
“My daughter said the metal detectors weren’t even on,” said the mother. “ … It’s very frustrating that they’re not doing [enough] and our children are deciding what makes them feel safe.”
Kenner did not immediately respond to the woman’s claims.
The Friends of Whitney Young group issued a statement Tuesday evening inviting parents and guardians to stand together outside the school Wednesday morning.
The group plans to meet at 7:30 a.m. at the corner of Laflin Street and Jackson Boulevard “in a sign of solidarity for our own children, and for every child and family touched by fear and hate,” according to an emailed statement.
Parents who wish to show their support will be stationed outside the school, and inside the building if they are properly vetted, Kenner said. Even more Chicago Police officers and district personnel will be inside and outside of the school.
Kenner said she is confident that the student, or students, responsible for the messages will be identified.
When they are, they will be suspended and likely expelled, said Kenner.
“We are not playing around with the safety of these students,” she said, “Everyone should have a right to come to school and feel safe and secure.”
Kenner said she is working with police and district personnel to review video surveillance footage from the hallways, but said there are no cameras located in or near the bathrooms.
The principal met with faculty and staff Monday afternoon to discuss concerns and has made students aware that they are welcome to share their thoughts and suggestions with administrators as well, Kenner said in the letter to parents.
Parents were invited to speak with administrators during a meeting at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in the school theater.
The principal also announced plans to form a security committee, comprised of students, parents, faculty and staff.
“We’re doing the best that we can to protect everybody, we take this very seriously,” said Kenner, “This is a stellar environment for education and we don’t want this to be disrupted by any threats of violence to our school community.”