On January 18, 2021 the Elmhurst Police Department and Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205 were notified of an incident that occurred on Sunday, January 17, 2021 at the York Community High School outdoor football field. Sometime between 12:00 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., a group of adults gathered to play an informal soccer game at the field. During the course of their visit the adults discovered two rope nooses hanging from the top of the metal bleachers.
The adults removed the ropes themselves and took them away with the intent to give them to school administrators later. School administrators were contacted and informed Elmhurst Police investigators of the incident. Examination revealed both ropes had tape affixed to them with two messages. One rope’s message read “Let them play!” and the other rope’s message read “Hear us now! Please!”. Elmhurst Police evidence technicians processed the evidence and sent it to the crime lab for analysis. The investigation subsequently revealed that a York High School student was responsible for the placement of the nooses.
The student indicated that the intent was to draw attention to the mental health impact of not being able to play sports. Based on the results of the investigation, school officials made the decision not to pursue formal criminal charges, and to address the matter administratively between the school, the student, and the student’s family.
Interim Superintendent Dr. Linda Yonke said, “On behalf of Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205, we want to thank the Elmhurst Police Department for conducting a thorough investigation. With the information presented to the District, we have determined that the motive was to draw attention to the isolation and mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students. As a result of the findings, no criminal charges will be pursued by the school district. District officials will approach this incident now as a school matter, which by law must remain private.”
Yonke went on to state, “At the same time, we also want to acknowledge that the symbolism used in this incident, regardless of intent, invoked anger and fear in many people. Please know that our first priority will always be the emotional and physical safety of our students and staff. District 205 will remain committed to equity and is highly invested in the social-emotional wellness of all students.”