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Eric DeGrechie, Editor
6:08 pm CDT June 5, 2019

Authorities responded  Wednesday, June 5, to a bomb threat that “included anti-Semitic language and graffiti” written in a bathroom stall at Wilmette Junior High School, according to a press release from the Wilmette Police Department.

The release sent out Thursday followed up a joint email delivered to the Wilmette Public Schools District 39 community Wednesday night that did not mention the racist content and was co-signed by Superintendent Ray Lechner and Wilmette Police Chief Kyle Murphy.

WPD’s followup press release also said that a student’s name appeared as the signer of the bomb threat. It is unclear at this time if the name was that of the student who actually wrote the threat.

According to Wilmette police, the student who found the message “properly” reported it to WJHS administrators, and police were called at approximately 11:41 a.m. The initial police investigation did not indicate a credible threat, but “out of an abundance of caution,” a precautionary dog search of the building was conducted, police said.

“We are pleased to report that the search confirmed there is no danger at WJHS,” the emails state. “While the follow-up investigation is ongoing, we are confident the school is safe.”

Reportedly, no suspicious items were found.

The email to the community sent out Wednesday — and obtained by The Beacon — did not include any mention of anti-Semitic language and graffiti.

The omission of that information did not sit well with many parents, including Pam Levy, who has several children in the district.

I am shocked and disappointed that D39 wouldn’t make that information available to the parents and the community,” Levy said. “I am the daughter of a child survivor of the Holocaust and I am concerned about this omission.”

Lechner addressed the omission in the email sent out Thursday.

“I know many of you were unhappy we did not address this [anti-Semitic language and graffiti] in yesterday’s email. Student safety is our priority; we believed the written bomb threat required immediate notification to families,” Lechner says in the email. “The hate graffiti component is a student matter, which requires thorough investigation. We acknowledge this process could take several days to fully address.”

Holly Goldin, Wilmette Public Schools communication director, told The Beacon the district is “not disclosing exactly what appeared” in the bomb threat.

There is increased police presence in the WJHS building today, Thursday, June 6.

According to Lechner, Principal Kelly Jackson met with staff Thursday morning to discuss school safety, support for students and a reminder to staff to “be alert to student conversations and report concerns to administration.”

Lechner also stated in the email that Jackson addressed yesterday’s events at a previously planned Thursday morning student assembly.

“Students were encouraged to be ‘upstanders’ and to report any concerns to adults,” Lechner’s email says. “Students were reminded of the ways they can anonymously report issues or concerns.”

Lechner said the school district will be reviewing its practices and is seeking the input of outside experts.

As The Beacon reported last month, the school recently implemented random dog searches of hallways, lockers and school grounds for illicit drugs and narcotics, gunpowder-based items, alcoholic beverages, and commonly abused prescription and over-the counter medications.

And earlier this school year, as reported by The Beacon, a parent of a WJHS student contacted the Wilmette Police Department on Sept. 16, 2018, after finding loaded firearms in the student’s bedroom. Officers secured the guns and transported the juvenile to a secure facility for treatment.

During the investigation, police learned that the student had been experimenting with possible explosive devices. Following a request from Wilmette police, the Cook County Bomb Unit conducted a sweep of the school. It was later learned there was no threat against students, staff or the school.