Schools face tests of keeping students safe
After the recent shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida and Great Mills High School in Maryland, questions circle the efforts of Joliet Township High School District 204 and Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210 officials to maintain security within their school districts, both of which faced tests of keeping students safe in the past.
The practice of working to ensure the safety of students differs from one school district to the other.
According to Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210 community notifications sent through in the last 24 months, four incidents concerning safety were reported.
Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210 Superintendent Dr. Scott Tingley said making sure students feel safe is a top priority.
“That’s our goal,” he said. “We have different procedures, and we they take advantage of them. It’s about having that awareness and having that trust to approach a staff member or administrator that’s key.”
According to Joliet Township High School District 204 community notifications sent through in the last 24 months, four incidents concerning safety were reported.
“We review each case carefully, based on our criteria,” McCarthy said of the District’s efforts to notify the community. “It depends on the case.”
If safety has been directly jeopardized, policy dictates that Joliet Township High School District 204 will communicate this to its parents and community. When a situation does not contain a threat to the school or its students, the District may choose not to communicate this information.
Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210 consults with law enforcement regarding safety concerns. When appropriate, policy states that families are notified using the District’s School Messenger system, which can send communication through email, voicemail, text message and social media.
Out of the measures commonly used in Lincoln-Way schools is RaptorWare, a program enabling staff to use identification cards to perform a background check of anyone who enters the buildings while classes are in session. Joliet Township High School District 204 employs background checks, as well, to examine the record of visitors entering school facilities.
Both districts continue to update its practices and procedures on an ongoing basis.
“We have a comprehensive safety plan,” McCarthy said, noting the various components, such as lockdown drills, metal detectors and school resource officers. “We learn from what other districts are doing. We’ll always continue to learn and make changes.”
McCarthy explained that it’s like a good curriculum, officials are always looking to improve and that the District does not believe it’s ever done working to ensure that students are safe, if they are truly good stewards of taxpayer dollars.
Both superintendents expressed that their districts strive to ensure that equity is achieved across all schools, with regard to ensuring that students have access to a safe learning environment.
Tingley said engagement is critical to establishing and maintaining connections between teachers and students.
Approximately 80 percent of Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210 students are involved in activities outside the classroom.
“In terms of preparedness, we have procedures in place,” Tingley said. “We grow annually, and our students and staff are aware of what to do. We have prepared; we have drilled. We’d do anything to protect our students and staff.”