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Chillicothe Times-Bulletin - Chillicothe, IL
  • Officials react to student "joke" about bringing gun to IVC High School

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  • A 14-year-old student apparently joking about bringing a gun to school on Valentine's Day was arrested Wednesday.
    The incident was not taken lightly by school administrators and the police. It came to the attention of high school administrators after students had already left Illinois Valley Central High School Wednesday.
    The Chillicothe Police Department was contacted immediately, according to information Superintendent Dr. Nick Polyak sent to school officials, parents and the media.
    School officials stressed that there was never an actual threat to either IVC District 321 students or schools.
    "It has been confirmed that this high school student admitted to 'jokingly' saying he was going to bring a gun to school. Neither the school district nor the police department finds this to be a joking matter. This issue is being handled by both the school district and the police department at this time," Polyak wrote Wednesday.
    Though the district's press release calls the threat a "joke," Chillicothe Police Chief Scott Mettille said in today's age, "any statement can't be taken as a joke. (We) treat every single situation as if it's not."
    The investigation concluded Wednesday night and now is in the hands of the Peoria County States Attorney's office.
    IVC High School Principal Kenton Bergman said though a lot of rumors were circulating around the district about the situation, none of the phone calls he fielded had any validity.
    He also said he was unaware of anyone keeping their children home from school Thursday due to the incident.
    Some residents may wonder if students still maturing understand the serious nature of saying something, even if it is joking.
    "I'm not sure if I've ever said, 'Students, you can't say this,'" said Bergman.
    While students and teachers discuss various items from the school handbook in homerooms, more of the items are general, not specific.
    When watching the news and seeing what has happened around the country at schools, movie theaters and other public places, Bergman said he would hope that students would not say things even if they are joking.
    He gave a lighter example of an item that is open to interpretation.
    "Say a student says to another student, 'I'm going to kick your butt right now,' laughs and walks away," Bergman said.
    That statement could fall under horsing around, making a threat or bullying, Bergman said.
    Depending on how the student feels about what was said, and how many others heard it and their interpretation of it, it could lead to many different outcomes under the school handbook.
    He likened a student saying he was going to bring a gun to school like someone yelling "fire" in a public place or "bomb" in an airport.
    Page 2 of 2 - "When it comes to schools, weapons and drugs — at any school district — those are items that you don't mess with," said Bergman.
    While school districts across the country deal with these topics, Bergman said Chillicothe has a lot of positives on its side.
    "Thankfully, here in Chillicothe, we have a police department that is wonderful to work with. Thankfully, we have leadership in schools that you can discuss things with. But that being said, you can't be complacent," said Bergman.
    The incident has opened lines of communication between students and teachers, as well as parents and their children.
    One thing remains clear to Bergman: "You have to look at (students) safety first."
    When asked if the student is still in school, Bergman said the district's policy is not to comment specifically on any student discipline case, but that there is possible student discipline.
    As with all student discipline cases, Bergman said three items are referenced: the school handbook, district policy and school code.

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