Community members discuss potential clown ‘threat’ with Halloween looming


Daily file photo by Lauren Duquette

Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Superintendent Paul Goren and District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon speak at an event this year. Goren and Witherspoon outlined steps schools are taking to combat the possibility of a clown hoax reaching Evanston.

Ally Mauch, Reporter

With Halloween approaching, a city committee is taking steps to discourage clowns from creating a disturbance.

Police and school officials spoke to roughly 20 attendees at a City-School Liaison Committee meeting Wednesday about reports of roaming clowns, which have popped up around the country in recent weeks.

Evanston police Sgt. Jason Garner said there are two active investigations in Evanston regarding clowns, and police are pursuing search warrants on Facebook and Twitter accounts in order to find the perpetrators of reported hoaxes.

“We have had an uptick in reported incidents involving clowns either chasing or scaring children, but we haven’t had any bona fide incidents where we’ve determined that a clown was actually present,” he said.

In addition, the superintendents of districts 65 and 202 outlined steps schools are taking to combat the clowns. The committee — which meets three times per year and coordinates between Evanston, District 65 and District 202 — met at Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center.

Recently, social media reports of clowns in the area prompted District 65 to send a letter to parents. The letter said the threat was potentially a hoax but that the school was taking it seriously. The letter also requested no children dress up as clowns for Halloween in order to make it easier to identify potentially dangerous situations, said Paul Goren, superintendent of District 65.

“We got many thank you letters from parents and family members,” Goren said. “They were very happy to sit down and talk to their kids to ease some of fears that were really spiralling.”

Following the threat, District 65 also provided social work support for frightened students.

Garner said the department plans to gear up for Halloween by putting out an educational bulletin to community members Thursday morning “reminding parents to be mindful that the police department will investigate any online activity.”

“So far, as in most places, it’s been a hoax, but we can’t treat it as a hoax; it is a threat,” District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon said. “A lot of young people get very frightened. They worry that a clown is coming to get them.”

Both Evanston Township High School and Evanston middle schools do not allow costumes on Halloween for several reasons, one being that costumes are potentially disruptive to education.

Although the rule is long-standing, it is especially important no students be in costume this Halloween, Witherspoon said. He added the main worry is not knowing who the person is in costume and what they may or may not have inside the costume.

“In 2016, we have to be able to identify every person walking our halls,” Witherspoon said. “We can’t have anybody in a mask or a costume or in any way unidentifiable.”

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