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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.

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.

Kerri U December 20, 2012 at 06:58 PM
I am sure I will be in the minority but why not have a firearm in coded security box if every classroom in which a teacher is willing. The code can be known just to the teacher and any personeel can be trained by law enforcment. A person would think twice about going in and shooting kids and teachers if they knew they could get shot before they got anywhere. If you think banning guns of any kind is going to stop a person intent on evil, you are wrong. There are millions of illegal weapons in the US and they are not in law abiding citizens hands.
lala December 20, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Not a bad idea. I would be willing to pay more in taxes if a law enforcement officer were in the schools.
Phil December 20, 2012 at 08:56 PM
We need a ban on assualt type rifles that have large magazine clips, period. As Far as other guns the only control required is proper training and secure storage by the gun owner. If a person is intent on wreaking havoc they will find the weak spot and wait for that moment, people have to enter, leave, recess, deliveries,etc.. A small but effective access control system followed up with practiced policies/drills by staff and local PD should be a minimum and either PD or Armed Security not seen by children in back monitoring cameras ready to respond to suspicious behavior would be best. We can take the schoold district having a very nicely timed political talk on security (so they can say they discussed it) meanwhile at bentley all the doors were wide open during the Christmas Orchestra & band recital...anyone could have just walked right in and it would have been hard to miss anyone. Most communities had police in the lot for a day or two, this is all politics and show, where are they today. No security expert wants a lock down or 6 year olds surrounded by guns, but a concealed weapond with PD in plain clothes at these events would serve both purposes well.
Phil December 20, 2012 at 08:56 PM
Too bad WGN wasn't reporting from both of these locations at the same time, it would shine a light on all these "security experts" and PD's who are just getting camera time for 30 -180 seconds on the local news feed. We also need (1) voice for the media and one head of chain of command so that information is not reported differently but several agencies.

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