Officials at Oak Park and River Forest High School sent a letter to parents Oct. 28, informing them of circulating rumors that a male student was preparing to disclose “private and personal information” about other male students and that the targets of those disclosures were preparing to retaliate.

After Oak Park police investigated what the letter called “unsubstantiated rumors,” a second letter to parents over the weekend said the situation was under control. Sgt. Michael Richardson confirmed Monday the investigation was over.

Kay Foran, the school’s communications director, said OPRF officials learned about the rumors on Oct. 25, but decided to send the letter to parents after hearing Thursday night about possible retaliation. She wouldn’t say whether it was students, staff or parents who reported the retaliation rumor.

According to the letter, signed by Superintendent Steven Isoye and Principal Nathaniel Rouse, “Since first learning of these rumors, OPRFHS staff members have focused on intensive interventions with the identified students. We believe these efforts have been successful; however, the initial rumors have taken on a life of their own.”

Wednesday Journal has learned the rumors may have had to do with a student planning to out other students who are alleged to be gay. Foran would not comment on that aspect of the investigation.

“OPRFHS is convinced that no such written disclosure of private, personal information has occurred,” the Sunday letter said.

Foran said on Monday no one had been suspended or expelled from the school and no one had been referred for a disciplinary hearing as far as she had heard.

Whenever there are unsubstantiated threats, Foran said, you “can’t gamble that you guess wrong when it comes to student safety.”

The incident occurred in the same week that the November issue of Seventeen Magazine contained an article about a list ranking girls’ looks at the school last year. The first letter from Isoye and Rouse said the more recent incident “reminds us of how vital it is we teach our students to treat each other with respect.”

Letter from OPRF

Oct. 28, 2011

Dear OPRFHS parents:

OPRFHS is aware of rumors circulating this week that a male student was thinking about disclosing private, personal information about other male students today, Friday, October 28, and that those students, in turn, were preparing to retaliate.

Since first learning of these rumors, OPRFHS staff members have focused on intensive interventions with the identified students. We believe these efforts have been successful; however, the initial rumors have taken on a life of their own. Oak Park Police are investigating these unsubstantiated rumors, and, as a precaution, we will have an increased police and security presence in and around the building.

We ask you to be especially vigilant and attuned to your own student’s conversations, too. If you hear anything that concerns you, please immediately bring it to the attention of school authorities and/or police. Our faculty and staff are aware of this situation and will be ready to direct students to any necessary supports should the need arise. We are not able to provide any more information at this time, but will keep you apprised of further developments as appropriate.

This troubling incident – in the same week that the November issue of Seventeen Magazine contained an article about last year’s ugly “ranking list” — reminds us of how vital it is we teach our students to treat each other with respect.

Sincerely,
Dr. Steven Isoye
Superintendent

Nathaniel L. Rouse
Principal

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