Romeoville High School “modifies” walk-out after Instagram threat

By Patrick Engel
Medill Reports

Romeoville High School students participated in 17 minutes of silence in their gym in lieu of a walk-out protest that was canceled early Wednesday morning as a result of a prior threat posted by a student on Instagram.

The school’s decision to postpone the walk-out came early Wednesday, after Romeoville police found the threat not credible.

“We told them we’d have to modify our plans from what we had originally had planned to go outside,” Principal Derek Kinder said, “just because of the perceived threat and the uneasiness from some of our parents and students.”

Instead of participating in the nationwide walkout movement, about 1,100 students filed into the southwest suburban high school’s gym around 10 a.m. Wednesday to commemorate the 17 shooting victims in last month’s attack in Parkland.

Romeoville High School has an enrollment of about 1,800, but Kinder said around 1,300 students came to school Wednesday, with the threat playing a role in the low attendance. Kinder also said the school would make up the originally planned “assembly” at a later date. Romeoville police officers were stationed outside school Wednesday as a precaution.

The Instagram threat posted Tuesday showed a picture of a student with a weapon. Police said that one person posted the picture and others followed it with comments about the school not being safe the following day. Police contacted the student who posted the photo and determined that the weapon was an air-soft gun.

“There was never a threat that was communicated or intended,” Romeoville Deputy Police Chief Steve Lucchesi said.

“No one had the intent for it to be a threat and go viral.”

The uncertainty surrounding the threat prompted the cancelation of a counter-protest planned outside the school during the walk-out. Romeoville resident Savannah Denvir, in conjunction with right-wing group Overpasses for America, organized the counter-protest, but canceled it after talking with police.

“A few of them, maybe five or so, still came anyway,” Lucchesi said. “But it was peaceful. There were no issues.”

Kinder said the counter-protestors were not a concern and didn’t influence the decision to postpone the walk-out.