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Police Beef Up Patrols at Taft Amid 'Shootout' Concerns

By Heather Cherone | December 21, 2012 12:58pm | Updated on December 21, 2012 3:26pm
 Nathan DeWitt said he pulled his seventh-grade son out of class at Taft High School because of rumors of violence.
Nathan DeWitt said he pulled his seventh-grade son out of class at Taft High School because of rumors of violence.
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DNAInfo/Heather Cherone

NORWOOD PARK— Additional security was sent to Taft High School Friday morning after rumors circulated of a possible "shootout" at the school, possibly tied to the Mayan end-of-the-world prophecy.

Two additional police officers were spotted at the school's metal detectors near the front door by one parent.

There was no visible police presence outside the school when classes began at 7:45 a.m., but three uniformed officers wearing bulletproof vests arrived in an unmarked squad car about 45 minutes after school began. 

A Chicago Public Schools safety officer sat in his SUV near the entrance around 8:45 a.m.

Ald. Tim Cullerton (38th) said police told him Thursday they planned to beef up patrols at Taft, 6530 West Bryn Mawr Ave. He posted a message on Everyblock to parents, saying a threat could be connected to the Mayan prophecy that the world would end Friday. It also could have been linked to a fight on campus last week, he said.

"We have received reports that students at Taft HS are claiming ... there is going to be a 'shoot out' at the school on Friday," the message said. While it could be tied to the prophecy, he wrote, it could also be a "continuation of a fight from last week. In either case, we have made the school aware of the threats and have dedicated additional patrols to the school."

Some parents who didn't see the message said they were upset the school didn't alert them about the rumors.

Nathan DeWitt, who dropped his 12-year-old son Christian off at Taft Friday morning as usual, was back at the Northwest Side high school less than an hour later to pull his son out of class. 

DeWitt said he returned after being alerted by a friend about the rumors.

“I’m angry that the school didn’t notify parents about the threat,” DeWitt said, adding that had he known, he would have kept Christian home all day.

DeWitt, who said he saw the two additional police officers at the metal detectors, said "There seemed to be a lot of additional security inside.”

A Chicago Police Department spokesman declined to discuss how many additional officers were assigned to Taft, citing departmental policy.

Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman Marielle Sainvilus said the district has been on heightened alert since the deadly school shooting in Connecticut last Friday. All threats are taken seriously and investigated, she added.

"Additional safety measures will be taken if needed to further ensure the safety and security of students and school staff," a statement released by Sainvilus said.

Dawn Belter, whose daughter is a junior, said she heard about the threats from her daughter but wasn’t concerned at first.

“But then I saw the message from the police on Everyblock, and I decided to keep her home,” Belter said. “Better safe than sorry. I don’t have a lot of faith in Taft to handle these sort of situations.”

There were more police outside the school than usual when she picked her daughter up from school Thursday, Belter said. Her daughter also told her that security guards were searching more students than they do typically.

Taft Principal Mary Kay Cappitelli did not return a phone message Friday morning.

While some parents expressed concern about the threat of violence, several students said they were not worried. Others said they hadn’t heard the rumors at all.

“I’m not nervous,” said Cassidy Navata, 17. “It was just a stupid rumor.”