In response to concerned students, parents, and community members following the recent school violence, here is an overview of safety practices and measures at District 99:
At our main entrances, which remain open throughout the school day, trained security staff check in visitors and run their credentials through the sex offender database before they are allowed to enter our schools. All other doors are locked and secured after the start of each school day.
Safety Task Force
We evaluate and modify our safety and security plans as an ongoing practice. A Safety Task Force, which includes community police, fire and school personnel, meets regularly to recommend changes in practices, personnel, facilities, and technology to make our schools safer. The team has made numerous recommendations that have been implemented recently, including adding additional video cameras, running a variety of safety drills and expanding safety searches to include canines. A key change this year was hiring ten trained security personnel; they are stationed at our entrances and patrol the schools throughout the day and evening. This has provided both schools with a higher level of safety expertise.
Each year, our staff and students participate in training sessions and drills to prepare for worst-case scenarios in our schools. Staff members participate in an annual emergency lockdown/violent intruder simulation to practice their response to such an event. Working with the DGPD and other emergency response professionals, District 99 trains its staff members to deploy A.L.I.C.E. (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate) emergency response techniques. These preparations are in addition to the standard safety drills, including fire, severe weather, bus evacuation, and shelter in place.
We enhanced our student training this year. Following the standard lockdown, over the intercom system we instructed students about the A.L.I.C.E. armed intruder and violent threat procedures. At the conclusion of the training, students reflected on the scenarios presented and shared their thoughts with their classmates and teachers.
Police Department Partnership
For over 40 years, District 99 has partnered with the Downers Grove Police Department (DGPD) in support of the School Resource Officer (SRO) program. School resource officers are regular police officers employed by the police department and who have the same powers as police officers on the street, but who work inside the school buildings as armed plain clothed members of the police department. They work with school staff to ensure that students are safe, and focused on learning. Officers are typically assigned to a school for three years. One officer is stationed at North High, and one is stationed at South High.
Officers work with administrators, deans and counselors, developing crime prevention strategies and providing input and leadership in the district’s crisis planning. The officers are also responsible for all criminal investigations and complaints that take place within the school. They also conduct informative presentations to students in health, law, and driver education classes, covering topics such as internet safety, drinking and driving and living a healthy lifestyle.
In addition to the school resource officers, our local first responders have access to our video cameras to assist in the event of an emergency.
Proposed Safety Improvements
The proposed Master Facility Plan includes creating four secured entrances where visitors cannot gain entry to the buildings without being cleared by security. Secured entrances will have two doors with an entry vestibule in the middle. Visitors will wait in the vestibule while their government IDs are checked and visitor badges are issued. Once visitors are granted clearance, they will be admitted into the building. These “air-locked” entrances will create an additional layer of security that we currently do not have.
At North High, the entrances at Main Street and Prince Street will be secured. At South High, the front entrance on Norfolk and events entrance on the west side of the school will be secured. Currently, all other entrances are locked after the start of the school day and we will continue this practice.
Creating secured entrances will provide another layer of security that we do not currently have, and is something within our control to offer.
The people in and around our schools are an essential resource for ensuring student and staff safety. As we’ve shared, people who are at-risk often show signs or signals before an act of violence happens. This is part of the reason we added the Anonymous Alerts reporting system, which allows anyone to make a report without being identified. An icon (a red comment bubble) is located at the top right-hand side of all of our website pages, and leads to this page.
We also have extensive support systems inside of our schools for students in crisis or who are facing life challenges. Students who are struggling with social-emotional issues are supported by our counselors, psychologists, social workers, and a student assistance coordinator. Every student is assigned to a team of experts that is dedicated to their well-being. Teams meet regularly to identify students who may need additional support, brainstorm interventions, and assess the effectiveness of the interventions.
Parents play an essential role as partners with us in identifying students that might need additional help and should reach out to us if they need resources.
Safety is a Community Effort
In a world with ever-changing challenges and dangers, it is essential that our entire community is united in supporting our students. I ask that you find a way to actively help us in these efforts. If you ever see or hear of a concern that our schools should be aware of, please do not hesitate to reach out using the tools on our website, or email, call, or stop by and see an administrator.
Caring for our students is a daily priority for us. We will continue to support one another and share in the responsibility of keeping one another safe.