(Updated on Tuesday, Sept. 26, with a press release from local officials.)
Highland Park police are looking into if a social media post has played a task in a series of recent threats targeting a neighborhood elementary school.
Two more threats got here in on Tuesday, Sept. 26, naming Red Oak Elementary, a grammar school in Highland Park, and prompting a college search and increased police presence on site. The law enforcement response is the third overall prior to now week, following bomb threats and evacuations of Red Oak on Thursday and Friday, Sept. 21-22.
The unspecific threats on Tuesday, based on the City of Highland Park, originated in “agencies outside of Highland Park” that relayed the threats against “Red Oak Elementary” to Highland Park authorities. Police and North Shore District 112 staff reportedly swept the varsity grounds before all district schools resumed normal operations.
The previous threats — Sept. 21-22 — also reached the City not directly. An area media outlet informed HP police of a bomb threat on Sept. 21, and multiple out-of-state agencies contacted the City about threats to Red Oak on Sept. 22. In each case, the threats were found to hold no merit.
On Tuesday, the City, District 112, and Township High School District 113 released a joint statement responding to the threats. Partially, it reads, “We take each threat seriously. We also know that our response sets an example for our community. It’s our hope that every of you has felt safer knowing the multiple precautions which were taken, from talking openly about these non-credible threats to conducting constructing searches with bomb-detecting dogs to increasing patrols by Highland Park police and enhancing public safety measures at schools throughout our community.”
The threats to Red Oak Elementary began just a couple of days after the varsity was mocked by incendiary right-wing and anti-LGBTQ+ account Libs of TikTok.
The account — which was banned from TikTok for its abusive posts but has thousands and thousands of followers on other platforms — shared a photograph on Sept. 15 of an inclusive Pride flag inside a Red Oak classroom with the caption, “Why would Red Oak elementary school (Highland Park, IL) have a large progress pride flag hanging above students’ heads all day?” Like a lot of the account’s posts, it ignited a firestorm of negative and intolerant responses, including 1000’s of reactions and lots of of comments.
City Communications Director Amanda Bennett said multiple residents made local police aware of the post and “law enforcement is investigating the reported concerns,” however the City couldn’t provide further information concerning the ongoing investigation. District 112 officials confirmed the photo does feature a Red Oak classroom but declined to comment on the social media post or the investigation.
The post about Red Oak is analogous to dozens of others posted by Libs of TikTok, which usually ridicules the LGBTQ+ community and LGBTQ+ programs in schools and libraries. The account, which has a big and engaged following, became infamous for its inaccurate 2022 posts about transgender care at children’s hospitals, which were then subject to a deluge of threats and harassment.
The photo of a Red Oak classroom was the topic of the account’s ire on Sept. 15. The post, published on Facebook and Instagram, was picked up by other accounts, including Awake Illinois, one other social media account that mocks schools for equitable and inclusive practices. The primary bomb threat got here in on Sept. 21.
District 112 just isn’t alone in its emergency responses. The City of Highland Park said it’s working with local and federal agencies looking into the “nationwide surge in bomb threats and other threats” during the last several months. Lots of those threats might be linked to social media harassment.
Prior to now week alone (since Sept. 18), at the very least three other school districts mentioned by Libs of TikTok — all in posts criticizing education by or concerning the LGBTQ+ community — faced threats. Schools in Davis Joint Unified Schools in Sacramento were mentioned on Sept. 18, 19, and 22, and the district has since faced quite a few bomb threats, including one on Tuesday.
Pulaski High School in Green Bay, Wisconsin, has been threatened multiple times since Libs of TikTok posted about it on Sept. 20. An elementary school within the Central Kitsap School District (Washington) was subject to a threat on Sept. 25 and was a part of a Libs of TikTok post on Sept. 22.
The notorious social media account also played a task in a Highland Park controversy earlier this month. With a misleading post, the account ignited intense criticism of a Poverty Simulation that led to the event’s cancellation.
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