Education

School officials, police encourage reporting of all possible threats

School Shooting Florida
In this Feb. 14, 2018, file photo, students are evacuated by police from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., after a shooter opened fire on the campus. | Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Feb. 22, 2018 8:30 am Updated: Feb. 22, 2018 8:35 am

QUINCY -- School and law enforcement officials urge students and parents to report anything that might constitute a threat to the school, even when they are unsure.

Adams County Sheriff Brian VonderHaar said that after the attack on a Florida high school last week that left 17 students dead, he expected the number of threatening calls to increase.

Officials agree that anything that makes a person feel uncomfortable or concerned should be reported to an authority figure.

"If it's nothing, then it's nothing," said Quincy Police Department Sgt. Jeff Grott. "You never know. We take all threats seriously."

Grott said he would rather investigate 100 instances where the tip proved to be nothing than to let one preventable shooting occur. Grott suggests, if possible, capturing a screenshot of potential threats made online, particularly when such instances occur on apps where content disappears such as Snapchat. Such images can be significantly beneficial in investigations, he said.

Quincy Public Schools Security Director Dan Arns said people can report possible threats to either police or any school district employee they trust. Law enforcement works closely with the district in the investigation of such reports. Quincy Police Department has school resource officers at Quincy High School, Quincy Junior High School and Baldwin Intermediate School.

"If it's a student in school at the time," Arns said, "I would say go to the school (official) right away."

Conversely, law enforcement may be the better option outside of school hours. Police will contact the school and can make progress on the report before school resumes.

While calling the Police Department directly is always the better option, students can send anonymous tips through text messages to Quincy Regional Crime Stoppers by texting TIPSQRCS and the information to 274637.

Quincy Public Schools Superintendent Roy Webb said the district is trying to make students more aware of the program. The program is available for Quincy High School students, but Webb said it may eventually be expanded to include Quincy Junior High.

"Sometimes kids are concerned they will be seen as tattle-tales," Webb said. "This way, they can let the authorities know in an anonymous way."

Possible threats have been reported at high schools across the region over the last week. In McDonough County, a 17-year-old male was taken into custody and charged with disorderly conduct in relation to a possible school threat at Bushnell-Prairie City High School, The Herald-Whig's news-gathering partners at WGEM reported.

VonderHaar said, "Just because someone thinks they might be blowing it out of proportion doesn't mean they shouldn't report it. Doing something is always better than doing nothing."

The Illinois State Police fields tips through the Illinois Attorney General's Office's School Violence Tipline, 1-800-477-0024. The state police will direct reports to the appropriate agencies.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

QPS Security Department 24-hour line: 217-221-3480

QPS District Office: 217-223-8700

Quincy Police Department: 217-221-4470

Quincy Regional Crime Stoppers: 217-228-4474

School Violence Tipline: 1-800-477-0024