‘Swatting' incident at Carpentersville school just one of dozens in Illinois

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A hoax emergency call at Dundee-Crown High School in Carpentersville Wednesday prompted a police presence and panic from parents and students who were worried about a reported shooting, but there was never a shooter or an active threat.

Wednesday’s incident is believed to be one of the latest examples of “swatting," which is affecting schools across the country.

In a message posted to the school district’s website Wednesday, District 300 Superintendent Dr. Susan Harkin wrote:

“Dundee-Crown High School is believed to be the victim of a malicious act known as "swatting." As I understand that this term might be unfamiliar to some in our community, I’d like to take a moment to explain what swatting is.

According to Education Week, swatting is “a term that refers to filing a false report with the aim of stoking chaos and proving a large law enforcement response.” These false reports often include threats of violence that require an immediate emergency response. Unfortunately, swatting has impacted many school districts in Illinois and nationwide. Swatting is illegal. It strains valuable law enforcement resources. It creates unnecessary panic within communities. And it has significant consequences for the responsible parties. 

In today's incident at Dundee-Crown, an individual placed a false call, making a serious threat against the school. As a result, law enforcement responded immediately and enacted their safety protocols. After a thorough investigation, it was determined that the threat was unsubstantiated, and our students and staff were never in danger. 

District 300 takes these incidents seriously and is working closely with law enforcement to identify the responsible party...”

NBC 5 Investigates found Wednesday’s swatting incident is just one of the scores involving Illinois schools this year.

By our count, least 36 different schools across Illinois have been impacted by a swatting incident since January – that includes 17 schools in the Chicago area and 19 more across the state.

Honestly, it’s really scary. I don’t know how to feel my voice is shaking right now,” Jocelyn Oliveras, a senior at Dundee-Crown High School told NBC 5 News.

Josepha Gomez, the parent of the freshman at the high school, said her daughter was upset by this morning’s events.

“The school year just started and we already we are dealing with this,” Gomez said.

On a single day in April, 21 schools across Illinois were hit with bogus calls claiming there was an active shooter. They included Whitney Young Magnet here in Chicago; East High School in Rockford; and downstate schools in Carbondale, Bloomington, Decatur, Champaign and elsewhere, according to an NBC 5 Investigates’ analysis of news reports.

Earlier this year, the Chicago office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation said that they field approximately ten reports of school-swatting, every month, in the Chicago area.  That rate would mark a 42-percent increase in school-swatting calls here, just in the past year.

NBC 5 Investigates has found scores of reports of swatting incidents throughout Illinois and the Chicago area, just since the beginning of this year:

  • Thursday, January 26, 2023 – Several schools in northwest Indiana’s Porter County – including schools in Hobart and Portage -- received what police later called “non-credible” threats – or swatting calls.  Students were put on lockdown, followed by a lockout (where all exterior doors were locked), and then early dismissal.  A similar threat had been made to nearby Valparaiso High earlier in the month.
  • Friday, February 10, 2023 – An apparent swatter called in a threat to Carl Sandburg High School in southwest-suburban Orland Park, where students were put on “hard lockdown.”
  • Monday, February 20, 2023 – Someone called far-west-suburban Wheaton North High School and threatened to “kill everyone.”  Classes were not in session because of the Presidents Day holiday. 

That same day, someone also called in threats to North Shore Country Day School in Winnetka, as well as Wilmette Junior High School, both in the northern suburbs.  And someone also called far-downstate Vandalia Junior High School, where all staff was evacuated (students were off for the holiday there, as well).

  • Monday, February 27, 2023 – School officials evacuated Chicago Bulls College Prep high school on the near west side, after someone called in a bomb threat in the morning.  The school had received a similar call back on May 3rd, 2022 – less than a year before.
  • Tuesday, February 28, 2023 – Northwest-suburban Elgin public schools received what was later described as an “unsubstantiated threat.”  Officials kept all schools open, with no lockdown.
  • Friday, March 10, 2023 – Classes at near-west-suburban Elmwood Park High School were cancelled after officials there said they received word that someone might threaten students during an organized walkout.
  • Thursday, March 23, 2023 – Police were called to all schools in Bloomington School District 87 in central Illinois, after a dispatcher received a report of a threat, which police later determined was a swatting attempt.  Police said the caller said a friend was going to shoot up a local school. 
  • Wednesday, April 12, 2023 – Twenty-one schools – including Whitney Young Magnet School in Chicago and East High School in Rockford -- were all hit in one morning with calls reporting an active shooter.  This included downstate schools, including Carbondale Community High School, Marion High School, Granite City High School, and Mount Vernon Township High School.   Threats were also called in to schools in Murphysboro, Freeport, Vienna, Eldorado, Centralia, Collinsville, Champaign, Springfield, Aurora, Dixon, Decatur, Bloomington, Jacksonville, Peoria and Pittsfield.  Many schools described a caller with a foreign accent who said a student had been shot.
  • Monday, April 17, 2023 – Students at northwest-suburban Barrington High School were sent home early, after the school received several bomb threats.  Police later said all the threats were all swatting calls.
  • Thursday, April 28, 2023 – Glenbard West High School in west-suburban Glen Ellyn received a bomb threat.  The schools sent students home early, but the call was later determined to be a swatting incident. 
  • Thursday, May 4, 2023 – A week later, another phony bomb-threat was called into the same school – Glenbard West -- causing the entire campus to evacuate.  A 17-year-old student at the school was arrested for the call, later that day.
  • Monday, August 28, 2023 – Several schools in Chicago’s north and west suburbs received calls and bomb threats, including Central Intermediate School in west-suburban Ottawa, Daniel Wright Junior High School in Lincolnshire, and South Elgin High School in the northwest suburbs.

Those figures could be an undercount because swatting historically has not been closely tracked.

The FBI is looking to change that.

NBC News reported earlier this summer that the agency announced the launch of a national database to track these incidents and improve communication and information sharing between law enforcement agencies.

But so far, as we’ve seen today, these incidents continue unabated.

NBC 5 Investigates reached out to the FBI Chicago field office but have not heard back.

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