Rumors of a planned attack by two students at Paris High School are greatly exaggerated, Paris Police Chief Mike Henness said Thursday afternoon.
The investigation is continuing and the two students have been removed from the school by their parents. A third student became involved today following social media posts, Henness said.
“The initial two didn’t go on social, and they did not threaten the school,” said Henness.
The rumors exploded on social media today, prompting the school administration to release the following statement:
“A rumor has circulated that there was a potential of school violence at PHS. This rumor was investigated immediately by school administration and law enforcement. The schools are secure. Appropriate protocol is being followed in conjunction with law enforcement. Administration and law enforcement work on a regular basis to monitor school activities and the security of our students. Safety of our students is our top priority, and we appreciate the support of our community in reporting safety threats.”
Henness said the investigation began when other students expressed concern after hearing two of boys discussing guns and hunting in a P.E. class.
The two students — who denied planning any violence — were removed from class and questioned by Wilson, Henness said. Their parents were called and they were removed from the school, pending further investigation, he said.
Henness said law enforcement has interviewed approximately 80 PHS students about the alleged threat. It is unclear where the rumor started. The third student was brought into the investigation after posting on social media he would help one of the others if anybody tried to attack him.
“It was hearsay,” the police chief said, adding the two original students accused of plotting a shooting attack had not made any social media postings claiming that was their intention.
Contrary to social media reports of a stockpile of weapons and notebooks detailing the attack, Henness said no guns were found in the home of one of the students while firearms were found in the other student’s home. There were no notebooks containing plans of an alleged attack, he emphasized.
“The parents voluntarily removed the guns from the home,” said Henness.
The investigation is close to wrapping up, Henness said.
All three will likely be evaluated by the SASS — the Screening, Assessment and Support Services — of the state of Illinois. SASS is a cooperative partnership between the Department of Children and Family Services, the Department of Healthcare and Family Services and the Department of Human Services.
Once the investigation is completed, Wilson will provide information to Edgar County States Attorney Mark Isaf to determine if criminal charges are warranted.
In the meantime, the parents of all three students agreed to keep their children at home so police know where they are.
Henness emphasized police would advise parents of other high school students and the community if there was a credible threat.
“Those are our children,” he said.