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Monday, April 14, 2008

Schools and Universities Close After Threats Are Made

"Be prepared to die on 4/14"

That message was scrawled in a bathroom at the St. Xavier University and it caused enough concern for the the University to shut the campus down as off 4/11/08 and cancel classes.

Two adjoining high schools and two elementary schools closed down as well as a precaution.

Today, a similar threat caused Malcolm X College to evacuate over 1,000 people from the school and to cancel day time classes.

After police searched and determined no bombs or immediate threats, Malcolm X College resumed their classes about 4:30pm.

Michigan's Oakland University was also closed today because of threatening graffiti mentioning April 14, 2008.

Police spokeswoman Monique Bond said the threat at Malcolm X was "similar in nature" to the threats at St. Xavier, but declined to provide specifics.St. Xavier spokesman Joe Moore said Monday morning that no decision has been reached about when to re-open the school, which has campuses on the Southwest Side of Chicago and in suburban Orland Park.

"University administrators have been meeting ever since this situation began last week a couple times a day, and that will continue," Moore said. "Administrators are relying heavily on law enforcement personnel to inform decision making."

The superintendent of Evergreen Park Elementary District 124, which operates Southwest Elementary, Craig Fiegel said, "We never felt there was any threat to our schools, but as a precautionary measure we thought we would be safe and do that for that day."

All four nearby schools were expected to re-open tomorrow.

Several students from Malcolm X express that they are in agreement with the schools decision to evacuate the school as a precaution, some citing the recent shooting at Northern Illinois University earlier this year where earlier threats had been discovered on campus.

One student says she won't be attending the night classes even though the school has been reopened and another student, Angel Brown, said, "We could have been in there and everything could go 'kaboom."

All the threats similar in nature and all mentioning the date of 4/14/08, was reason enough for officials and authorities to be concerned.

According to the St. Xavier University website, in a statement from President Judith A. Dwyer, Ph.D, the threats were found on April 5 and April 10, 2008, in Regina Hall. She explains in her statement that the message found on April 10, was the moist specific and contained the direct threat of "Be prepared to die on 4/14."

As part of the closure of the campus we ask that students leave campus by noon, Saturday, April 12. Students who may not be able to easily return home or afford transportation should call (773) 341-5060 for assistance. On Saturday and Sunday, Student Affairs personnel will be on hand to assist students and answer questions. The University will take every action possible to ensure that students’ academic careers are disrupted as little as possible.

The latest update from the St. Xavier University website was today, April 14, 2008, and tells students that the school will be closed until further notice.

It is also disturbing that the threats to the Chicago school which very well could have been the work of some prankster, is the fact that the school in Michigan mentioned the same date as the threats in the other Universities.

The Oakland University in Michigan held messages on their website to inform students of what was going on.

The first was on April 12, 2008:

The Oakland University Police Department (OUPD) is investigating a written message placed on a restroom wall in one of the academic buildings. The message was discovered on Saturday, April 12, 2008.

The brief message may be interpreted by some as being somewhat disturbing, but it is quite vague and contains no specific threat of any kind.

Over the next several days we are asking members of our campus community to remain alert and report any suspicious behavior or occurrences to the OUPD by campus telephone at 911, or by cell phone at (248) 370-3331.

The second alert was more troubling because it informed students that two additional threats had been found on campus at separate locations.

Instances of threatening graffiti were found Saturday, April 12 in men’s restrooms in O’Dowd Hall, Kresge Library, and the Oakland Center. The Oakland County Field Office of the FBI has been made aware and is monitoring the situation.

No word as of yet on who wrote these threats or if it was the work of more than one individual, but the schools are preferring to err on the side of caution although some of the students are naturally expressing concern about the danger still presented.

These closures happened just two days before the anniversary of the Virginia Tech killings and exactly two months after the deadly rampage at Northern Illinois University.