Newtown's shadow was across at least two local schools Monday when false information led to heightened security.
At James Avant School in Washington Park, a staff member saw three young men running on Forrest Street about 12:15 p.m. Monday, according to a letter sent home to parents. Principal Kim Jones-Riley asked one of them to leave the area.
Police advised the school to lock the door and officers came to perform a security check of the building.
Washington Park Police Chief David Clark said the juveniles were in custody at the police station. Avant School includes grades kindergarten through 5 and is at 1915 N. 55th St.
Granite City High School was under heightened security after administrators investigated some information Monday morning about a particular student, Superintendent Harry Briggs said. The tip was "unfounded," he said.
School remained in session and the high school was never in lockdown, Briggs said. Some additional security measures were in place.
"We took some precautions because of what's happened over the last several days," Briggs said. "But at the high school, it's business as usual."
Briggs said the administrators have met with social workers, police officers and school resource officers and reviewed the plans and procedures for school security in the wake of the 27 killings Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.
Belleville District 118 Assistant Superintendent Lynn Clapp said the school district was sending notes to students' parents Monday to remind them that the school district has safety procedures in place. Teachers and staff have talked about how to discuss Friday's school shooting with students. Clapp said teachers and staff can talk about it if students want to ask questions or talk about it.
"Some kids want to talk about it, and we don't discourage that," Clapp said. "We have equipped staff with a few small guidelines to help them react to the kids."
In Fairview Heights, Grant School District 110 Superintendent Matt Stines said he drafted a letter to be sent to parents to reassure them that the school district has policies and procedures in place.
"Student safety is our number one priority," Stines said. "We will do everything we can to keep them safe and outline it for them. We do intruder drills twice a year, minimum. We have just spent money this summer to upgrade exterior doors and all of intruder locks on classrooms and installed a buzzer system to make sure everything is secured."
Edwardsville school leaders sent a letter home to parents Friday and were expected to discuss school security at their board meeting Monday night.
In Swansea, Wolf Branch School District 113 Superintendent Scott Harres said the school district heard from as many parents asking for school administrators to talk to students about the shooting and those asking not to talk to their children about it in school.
"We had to try to consider both," Harres said. "What we did was during our morning announcements, we talked about how glad we were to have the kids back at school and how excited we were to have them in a safe environment. And then as far as students who needed a little extra attention, our social worker is providing time to meet with them so that their questions can be answered individually so we don't upset those students whose parents had said they want to talk about this at home, which we're totally fine with. We need to make sure we are vigilant of that."
Millstadt District 160 Superintendent Jon Green also drafted a letter to the district's parents about how the district was handling the issue. He said the school district has social workers on staff as well as he and administrators are available to answer parents' and students' inquiries. He also said that the school district is reviewing its drills for such emergencies likes this, which the school district conducts throughout the school year.
"Anytime these events happen, you take a proactive approach and take a second look at how you would handle a crisis situation in your own building and environment," Green said.
The Collinsville school district's crisis counseling team was on standby and sent information to all staff members on how to deal with student fears. Police stepped up patrols around the schools.
"Beyond that, I don't know that there's a whole lot we can do," said Collinsville Superintendent Robert Green.
Younger students may feel better by writing letters or drawing pictures for the schools in Newtown, Conn., Green said; others may feel better just being allowed to talk about it.
"We need to make sure we're listening to them and answering their questions as honestly as we can," Green said. "We want to reassure them that they're safe."
Some school leaders said it is really the parents who are panicking, not the kids. "I know it's a natural reaction to want to pull your kids and your grandkids close to you," Green said.
Green said there was a similar reaction after the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado, when the nation was less prepared to deal with it than it is now.
"It's a different world now in terms of school security," he said. "We take it seriously and don't discount anything."
Briggs agreed. "School is still the safest place to be," he said. "We appreciate parents keeping that in mind and knowing we'll do our best to protect their children when they come to school."