METAMORA, Ill. - Metamora Schools will be back in session Wednesday after cancelling classes Tuesday over a "credible threat."
Superintendent, Sean O'Laughlin, says he believes it was a racially charged video that recently surfaced on social media that was connected to the threat of a school shooting.
"The police believe in this instance that there was a very real possibility that there would be violence at the high school." O'Laughlin explained Tuesday at a news conference held to address the district's reaction to the video.
O'Laughlin says it was students who first reported seeing threats against the high school that surfaced on social media Monday night. Students reported it to administration who then contacted police.
The Woodford County Sheriff's Office says through multiple interviews, 3 persons of interest were identified and it was determined class would be cancelled.
After interviews with the subjects Tuesday, police are recommending that students return to class tomorrow, although the level of security will be stepped up.
At that news conference, O'Laughlin was joined by concerned parents and community members who asked for a call to action to change the tone of the converstation.
"That type of racist language and the behavior in the video has no place in our school." O'Laughlin explains.
The video shows several freshman football players using racist language and profanity. It was sent to and African-American student, who was also their teammate.
O'Laughlin says parents were contacted first, then the students were disciplined, but when it was determined they could face criminal charges, further action was taken.
"These students will no longer be representing Metamora Township on that football field this year." O'Laughlin says of the athletes' suspensions from the team.
Willie Williams' son was the recipient of the video.
"My reaction was just hurt for him, I experienced it in life, but I wanted I never wanted my kids to experience it." Williams explains.
Williams says he forgives the boys who created the video, hoping to lead by example.
"First thing I said to them is 'Hey I forgive you and I love you', I hugged them, that's what I did." Williams says.
Other parents spoke out at the meeting also voicing concerns.
"I don't want this to be a black and white issue, I want this to be an opportunity to end the hate." Annette Kohlrus says.
"There's so much more to this than just skin color, I mean being bullied for being different is what it comes down to." Stephanie Jones says.
All of them, vowing to work together to address issues of racism and bullying, starting with educating children, as the community hopes to use a low point to rise higher above hate.
"This is not the Metamora I love, this is not the Metamora I grew up in." Jones says.
"We have opportunity to set the tone in Germantown Hills and Metamora that 'Hey this is not who we are, it's been brought to our attention and we're gonna take care of it together.'" Williams explains.
O'Laughlin says this is the first time the district has dealt with an issue like this, acknowledging that the district does not assume it has handled everything perfectly. However, he says the district is doing all that it can now to chart a better path forward.
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