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Officials at Wilmette Public Schools District 39 are working with the Wilmette Police Department following an alleged anonymous Instagram post from Wednesday, Oct. 9, “alluding to violence and racial hate speech” at Highcrest Middle School.
Police determined that there was no credible threat to student or staff safety.
“We worked diligently throughout the day as the student had created a fake social media account in attempts to hide their identity,” Wilmette Police Chief Kyle Murphy told The Beacon. “There was no need for a search of the school because we were able to determine this was a prank.”
According an email sent out to parents Oct. 9, co-signed by Highcrest Principal Kelly Jackson and Wilmette 39 Superintendent Dr. Kari Cremascoli, district officials received the report at Wilmette Junior High School and “immediately” contacted the Wilmette Police Department.
Officials were alerted to the social media post by students according to police.
“[We] worked collaboratively to investigate the report and origins of the post,” the email from the district states. “We are happy to report that the police were able to positively identify the author of the post and to follow up directly with that individual.”
School officials will be following up with the individual to implement disciplinary procedures.
“The event provides an opportunity for us to remind all students and families that threatening or hateful language are taken seriously and will not be tolerated in our community,” the email states.
School officials are encouraging parents to monitor their children’s use of social media platforms and report anything suspicious to building administrators, use an anonymous online reporting form or report the matter to the Wilmette Police Department.
“Our students are certainly exposed to influences from all around the community and the nation at wide,” Cremascoli told The Beacon. “It is important to us and we’ve focused on educations and community building. As educators, we believe strongly in teaching our students about the importance of being safe and responsible.”
Near the conclusion of last school year in June, authorities responded to a bomb threat that included anti-Semitic language and graffiti written in a bathroom stall at Wilmette Junior High School.
According to Wilmette police, in that incident, a student found the message and reported it to WJHS administrators. Though the initial police investigation did not indicate a credible threat, “out of an abundance of caution” a precautionary dog search of the building was conducted and turned up nothing according to police.
In May, the district 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.
In September of 2018, a WJHS parent contacted Wilmette police after finding loaded firearms in a 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.
The juvenile was later charged with two felony counts of unlawful use of a weapon for possession of a handgun; one felony count of unlawful use of a weapon for possession of handgun ammunition; and one misdemeanor account of unlawful use of a firearm under 18.
With the latest incident, Murphy stressed the importance of partnership between his department and the school district.
“Alluding to violence or making a threat is illegal and a source of anxiety for the community,” Murphy said. “The school district and the police department take these reports seriously. We encourage families to discuss with their children the seriousness and the consequences of these actions. Additionally, we want to applaud those students and families who utilized the district’s tip line and notified the police department.”