On Tuesday, Sept. 25, two threatening messages were found on the walls of Oswego High Schools boys’ bathrooms. Both written threats contained the names of four individuals, along with the nearing date Oct. 9. We sat down with several students to talk how they felt in the aftermath of these events, touching on the person who wrote the messages and the way the school handled the situation.
Students were divided when it came to hearing about the threats. Questions arose on its legitimacy, with some even seeing it as a joke.
“I thought that it was just a hoax and that, if someone was actually going to commit an action, they would have not put the date,” junior Jacob Bohnert said.
Even though some people were frightened by the threat, they felt like the assailant should have confessed.
“They definitely should have [come forward], because this caused quite an uproar,” senior Cade Fiorito said. “This was the day that no one came into school, and they had to have maximum security.”
“I thought that it was just a hoax…”
– Jacob Bohnert
A few days later on Oct. 3, a second message was found regarding the threats previously made. This followed the arrest of a student found to be responsible for the first messages. For many students, this reoccurrence caused a shift in feelings.
“I felt like it was just something that someone wrote for attention,” Bohnert said. “This makes sense, why would someone write it in two bathrooms instead of one? And if they really did want to commit violence, why would they make everyone aware of it?”
Some viewed it as more of a scare tactic. Writing it in two bathrooms would certainly gain more attention, and scare more people.
“Most people though, hey, it’s an excuse to get out of school,” sophomore Erik Neidlein said, who did attend school. “I thought that was kind of like a horror movie, almost cinematic… I never took any of it really seriously.”
Some students were never made aware of the second message at all.
“What message?” senior Jack Ho questioned.
When it became time came to decide whether or not to attend school on Oct. 9, many parents made the executive decisions. Many students listed concerns about assignments, pressure from parents, and the overall concern as factors in their decision on whether or not to attend.
“I felt like it was just something that someone wrote for attention…”
– Jacob Bohnert
“I was planning to [attend], because I knew nothing was going to happen…but my dad kind of wanted me to stay home,” Fiorito said.
“I didn’t believe that anything was going to happen,” Bohnert said.
He held the same view of the threats as Fiorito, but unlike Fiorito’s, his parents wished for him to attend.
For some, the fear of being behind in classwork motivated them to attend school. When a person misses days, work builds up. When most people don’t view the threats as having any substance, the fear of extra work seems to overcome the fear of violence.
After the day had come and gone, students reflected on whether or not they had made chosen correctly. Some students regret having their parents keep them at home.
“If it was my decision, I would have came, but it was my parents’ decision. They didn’t want anything happening,” Aliu said.
Some even scoffed at those who made the choice to stay home.
“There wasn’t a need to not go to school. There were extra policemen,” DePaul said, one of those who did attend school on Oct. 9.
“Some teachers said ‘you should show up,’ because there was tests and note-taking…”
– Eric Neidlein
“[The school] had a lot more people on guard, making sure that it was safe for the students,” Fiorito said, who also approved of the security.
However, some of those who went to school because of their academic concerns regretted going because of the lack of work their teachers promised.
“Nothing really happened that day, so I kind of wish I stayed home—but I did get another day’s worth of notes, so in that respect it was good,” Neidlein said.
The school sent out many emails highlighting the events that transpired after the first message was discovered, including the details of the arrest such as that the assailant was a male from Montgomery. They also detailed that there would be an increased police presence at OHS. Many students felt that the school did a good job handling the situation.
“[The situation was handled] appropriately because they blew it up enough to where people understood it could be a threat. If they had just pushed it off, that would have been worse,” Neidlein said.
“[The school] had a lot more people on guard, making sure that it was safe for the students,” Fiorito said.
Compliments were also given to the school for the first arrest. According to Aliu, the school was able to catch the person who wrote the first message in a “fair amount of time.”
But there is a process which is supposed to be followed by Illinois Schools. The Illinois Board of Education maintains a “School Incident Reporting System” which helps people to be aware of incidents involving violence, drugs, etc. Most districts, however, do not report to it. We went to the “School Incident Reporting System” to find out how much our district actually reports its issues.
There are three classifications of the reports made: attack against school personnel, incidents involving drugs, and incidents involving weapons. Since July 2017, 16 events have been reported. 10 involving drugs, and six involving weapons. That is including the entire district, and for a district with two very large high schools, to some, those numbers may seem small. Nevertheless, the school’s reporting does not affect the way people view the handling of Oct. 9.
At the end of the day, people thought the way the school handled the situation was adequate. The community was made aware of the possible danger, and the school did what they had to in order to circumvent these dangers through extra security and a swift arrest. Luckily, no one was physically harmed throughout this situation. Always remember to tell a trusted adult if you see or hear something that sounds threatening.
Disclaimer: Cade Fiorito is a 42Fifty News Editor. He was not involved in the writing, reporting, or editing of this piece.