An anonymous caller to Evanston Township High School this morning said he was “distraught over breaking up with his girlfriend” and that he had a gun and intended to come to the high school and shoot people, high school officials said today, Feb. 17. School officials immediately put the school on lockdown, mandating that no students leave the building and no visitors come in.
By mid-afternoon, Dr. Eric Witherspoon, superintendent, addressed the student body, thanking them for their calm behavior and telling them that after-school and evening activities would proceed as normal, but with additional police and security presence.
Heidi Randhava, of the high school’s public relations department, told the RoundTable there was no indication that the caller had a connection with ETHS nor that the girlfriend was at the high school – either as a student or staff member.
Dr. Witherspoon said the school “never takes a situation like that lightly, and that’s why we asked students to stay in the building.” Evanston police, alerted to the situation, sent officers to the school.
Limiting the number of persons entering and exiting the building gave the police and ETHS safety personnel the opportunity to observe the school and the perimeter,
The school notified as many ETHS families as possible, calling some staff members who were not at work today and posting notices on the website, saying the school was on lockdown from an anonymous threat.
While many in the community may have wondered how the students were handling the situation, Ms. Randhava said the atmosphere at the high school was calm. “Kids are proceeding through their daily routine, she said. “There’s no fear here – just a sense of being watched [by the police and safety personnel].”
In addressing the students at about 2 p.m., Dr. Witherspoon said the increased police presence would continue for the remainder of the day and the evening’s activities and for the remainder of the week. Dr. Witherspoon also congratulated the students on their behavior throughout the day. “What you didn’t do is let somebody disrupt your education. … This is just another example of what a great school this is.”
Dr. Witherspoon said that for the rest of the week, “Police visibility will be increased at ETHS.” He also said that, through Friday, only one door at the front of the school and one door at the rear would be open for students and staff to enter and exit.
Commander Tom Guenther, public information officer for the Evanston Police Department, told the RoundTable the anonymous caller’s threat indicated a two-hour time frame. He said, too, that Evanston police would increase their presence at the beginning of the day and at dismissal and around the school “as long as we feel the threat is sustainable.