Threats found in bathrooms of Chippewa Falls Senior High School Monday may be related to threats found several days ago at Eau Claire Memorial High School, according to law enforcement.
“I’d say they were inspired,” Chippewa Falls Police Chief Matt Kelm said at a Monday afternoon press conference held at the Korger-Chestnut building. “There was no indication the suspects from (the Eau Claire Memorial High School) incident and these suspects are in any way related, but (we believe) it was inspired by that event.”
On Wednesday, Nov. 8, a threat was found written on a bathroom stall of Eau Claire Memorial High School. In that case, students were released after a partial day of classes. A 15-year-old has been referred to juvenile authorities in the Eau Claire Memorial case.
Two suspects, a male and a female, both 16-year-old students, have been identified in the investigation at Chi-Hi, Kelm said.
“The investigation is still somewhat ongoing. We believe we’ve identified the two primary people, and it’s unlikely, although possible, there were other people involved,” Kelm said.
A student found a threat in a Chi-Hi bathroom around 8:45 a.m., said Michelle Golden, the district’s executive director of public relations. After the administration contacted the police department, three more threats were found in both boys’ and girls’ bathrooms.
The threats specifically mentioned bombs and loaded weapons, threatening harm if the school was evacuated, according to an email from the school district sent to parents Monday afternoon.
Two of the threats were written on bathroom stalls; two were notes found in a bathroom.
The school was immediately sent into a hold status, Golden said, and the building was searched by both staff and the Chippewa Falls Police Department.
“We also notified Hillcrest Elementary, as well as Chippewa Falls Middle School, to not release students outside, as well as the (McDonell Area Catholic Schools) across the street,” Golden said.
Two students, one boy and one girl, were identified as suspects by law enforcement. Camera footage outside the bathrooms may have helped identify the suspects.
“Luckily we got a break on the investigative end of the case, then it was a matter of returning the school to normalcy,” Kelm said.
A search of the suspects’ homes and property was carried out Monday afternoon, Kelm said. No bombs or guns found on school grounds.
The hold keeping students in their classrooms at Chi-Hi was lifted Monday afternoon. Students were able to attend their last classes, Golden said, and they were released from classes at their normal time, 3:45 p.m. Hillcrest Elementary students were released at 2:30 p.m.
The high school’s food service delivered food to each classroom despite the hold, Golden said. “(Lunch) did take much longer than anticipated, but we felt that by releasing students to a lunchroom...we weren’t 100 percent confident we had identified the subjects.”
Golden and Kelm thanked parents for their cooperation, and asked them to talk to their children about alerting school administration to future potential threats.
“The fear that goes through every student and their parents, if they have kids at these schools, this is never something to just joke about. The penalties are also very severe,” Kelm said.
Members of the Chippewa Falls Police Department and Chippewa County Sheriff’s Department responded to the threat situation, along with school administrators.
“Thank you very much for your patience, cooperation, and understanding as we worked to ensure our schools are safe for our students. We are fortunate to have a strong relationship with our law enforcement, who responded swiftly and with all available resources to support us in this situation,” school district superintendent Dr. Heidi Taylor-Eliopoulos wrote in an email to parents.
School will be in session tomorrow with no change, Golden said.
The Chippewa Falls School Board will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Administration Building, 1130 Miles Street, where it is likely Monday’s incident will be discussed.