Metamora Township Buckles Down On Threats, Racist Hate Speech

Oct 3, 2017

On Tues., members of the community listened to statements from the Metamora Township High School superintendent and families affected by a racist video that was sent to black high school students.
Credit Cass Herrington / Peoria Public Radio

Metamora Township Schools were closed Tues., and the freshman football team will have four fewer players this season.

The closures are a result of online threats that showed intent of a school shooting.

“People were discussing it, people had the means to do it,” Metamora Township High School Superintendent Sean O’Laughlin said. “They [Police] were concerned enough for the safety of our students that we believed it was necessary to cancel school.”

He says the threats are tied to the surfacing of a video last week that shows an MTHS freshman inciting racist slurs, including the “N-word.” The video was directed at African American students.

Credit Cass Herrington / Peoria Public Radio

At a press conference Tues., the school district announced it’s suspending the four boys involved in the video.

After the video came to light on Sept. 23, school leadership initially decided to temporarily suspend the players. But Superintendent O’Laughlin says after consulting with attorneys and law enforcement, the district took a tougher stance.   

“When we came to understand that criminal charges could be filed, that changed the severity of the consequences for the students and the application of our athletic code.”

O’Laughlin was at a joint press conference Tuesday with parents of the black students who received the video.

Father and Marine veteran Willie Williams says his son reacted with “compassion, love and dignity.” He adds, they don’t have plans to leave the school or their Germantown Hills neighborhood.

“No, he was still at football practice the next day or week or whatever, with all his friends. He still was the only black kid there, but he didn’t care,” Williams said. “That’s what it’s about for us. We’re not moving, we’re not running, Marines don’t run.”

MTHS says the district plans to hold several workshops and trainings centered on cultural competency for students and faculty.

Willie Williams is the father of one of the freshmen students who received the video.
Credit Cass Herrington / Peoria Public Radio

The incident is already stirring community-wide conversation about race and discrimination in the predominately white town.

Anette Kohlrus is the mother of another black student who saw the video. Kohlrus says while growing up in Germantown Hills, she’s been aware of racial undertones but has never seen it rear its head in such a blatant, hateful and public way.

“This is probably the first time I’ve ever seen it slap us in the face,” Kohlrus said. “As a community, we are ignorant about how we teach our children, because we’ve never been open and honest about that.”

Kohlrus says she hopes the boys who created the video learn from their mistake and find a way to apologize to the community.

O’Laughlin says when school reopens, there will be a “significant" law enforcement presence.