O’Fallon District 90 administration discuss school threat
Police investigated a threatening message found on the exterior of an O'Fallon elementary school building Monday morning.
District 90 Superintendent Carrie Hruby said a staff member found graffiti outside J Emmett Hinchcliffe Sr. Elementary School, located at 1050 Ogle Road. Police were then called, and are investigating the graffiti that has since been cleaned and is no longer visible.
"The graffiti was not spray painted. It was written. I believe is was marker," Hruby said.
She added some of the graffiti was threatening while some were "explicit, vulgar drawings not of a threatening nature." The non-threatening graffiti was "sexually explicit drawings," Hruby said.
She said police do not consider the threats, which were "vague and not specific," to be credible.
A news release from the O'Fallon Police Department said someone had written "I'm going to shoot this (expletive) up" on the wall, and cut through window screens.
Nonetheless, Mark Berry, director of District 90 public safety and security, along with other O'Fallon police officers, will be at the school throughout the day.
"As we've worked together with the police department all morning, we're going to have police presence and myself here throughout the day at Hinchcliffe for precautionary reasons," Berry said.
O'Fallon Chief Eric Van Hook said they believe the graffiti was an isolated incident because there was other damage done to the building.
"There is no evidence supporting this being a credible threat, but we want to err on the side of caution," he said. "We want to do our part to protect the schools and it's a little extra on behalf of the school and police, but it's our responsibility to our community and students."
Van Hook said police will continue working with school officials until they are fully "convinced we have the incident under control."
The district is also excusing absences for students if parents want to keep them home from school.
"We've told parents today at Hinchcliffe that if they feel more comfortable keeping their children at home today that we would excuse the day we certainly understand and respect that," Hruby said.
Hruby noted that there is a climate of concern and fear among parents nationally given the recent increased trend in school related shootings and threats.
"I think parents are concerned nationally about schools and safety in schools. This is something that has heightened our awareness and all schools have increased police presence and security measures, and so it's an unfortunate situation that we're all feeling that there's a heightened sense of alarm or alert to any type of threat credible or not," Hruby said.
While the school hasn't been able to release figures on how many students were taken home from school or kept home due to the situation, Hruby said enrollment today was impacted.
After a letter was sent to parents and guardians by the district via email just after 8 a.m., and shortly after a robocall was made, numerous children were seen being picked up by concerned parents this morning.
The graffiti was cleaned off before 10 a.m.
Hinchcliffe Principal Kristie Belobrajdic said she held a staff meeting this morning to keep everyone working at the school in the loop.
Kaley Johnson: 618-239-2526, @KaleyJohnson6